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When Does Teenage Growth Spurt Happen?

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Teens grow fast and their bodies change tremendously during puberty and the growth spurt.

If you notice a sudden increase in your teen’s height, along with an increase in appetite and general fussiness, then it is probably a growth spurt. A growth spurt is a time during which your teen may grow several inches in several months, followed by a period of slow growth, and then another growth spurt.

These rapid physical changes coincide with hormonal changes due to puberty, thus making pubertal growth spurt intense and overwhelming. So, how can you, as a parent, help?

In this MomJunction post, we share with you the basics of the teenage growth spurt and some useful tips to help your child pass through this phase.

At What Age Does Adolescent Growth Spurt Begin?

Everyone is different. The occurrence of teenage growth spurt might vary. Some experience it early, while some may have it late. Yet, on average, a major growth spurt during puberty usually happens between 8 and 13 years in girls and 9.5 and 14 years in boys (1).

Whereas this phase of rapid growth in most girls ends by 15 years of age, it may continue until 16 or 17 years in boys (2). However, exceptions exist as some teens, especially boys, may continue to grow until their late teen years.

Age-wise Average Height For Boys And Girls

It is crucial to track your child’s growth and their overall development during teenage growth spurts. You may use a growth chart for this.

A growth chart is an assessment tool that compares your teen’s height and weight with the standard average height for a specific age. It can help keep track of your teenage boy’s or teenage girl’s general growth.

Percentile Average Height For Boys And Girls

Age (years)50th percentile height for boys (cm)50th percentile height for girls (cm)
8128127.5
9133.5133
10138.5138
11143.5144
12149151
13156157
14164160.5
15170162
16173.5162.5
17175.5163
18176163

Note: 50th percentile height is the average or median height of a girl or boy. If your child is in the 50th percentile, this means that when 100 normal teens of their age and gender are compared, 50 teens are shorter, and 50 are taller than your child.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (3)

What Causes Growth Spurt In Teens?

During adolescence, two sex hormones testosterone (in boys) and estrogen (in girls) cause a growth spurt. These sex hormones increase the human growth hormone secretion, which, in turn, causes an increase in mineralization of bones, leading to linear growth, i.e., an increase in height (4).

Signs And Symptoms Of Growth Spurt In Teenagers

You can identify growth spurt in your teenager if you observe the following signs:

  1. Feet big for shoes: Your teen’s growth begins from the extremities and works its way in. Therefore, your teen will first experience growth-related changes in hands and feet. Research studies suggest that frequent changes in shoe size are an early indicator of a growth spurt (5)
    . Thus, do make a note of changes in the sitting height, leg length, and shoulder-width that may corroborate your assessment (6).
  1. New pants become short: If the teen complains about their new pants becoming short in a matter of months, then it is likely due to a pubertal growth spurt. On average, a teenage boy could grow around three inches (7-8cm) a year during this period. The average gain in teenage girls is two to three inches (5-7.5cm) a year (7).
  1. Clothes get tight: Clothes would become tight around the waist and thighs. This change may occur due to fat gain before a growth spurt. However, it may accelerate during puberty, leading to an increased gain in weight around the waist, hips, buttocks, and thighs for girls. While for boys, it may happen around their belly (8).
  1. Prominent joints with big bones: Various joints in the body become bigger and prominent. Some of the more obvious joints are knees, elbows, and wrists.
  1. Increase in appetite: The tremendous physical and physiological changes during the pubertal growth spurt cause increased nutritional needs. It can lead to an increase in the teen’s appetite. The rise in appetite is more commonly observed in teenage boys than girls (9).

Besides these prominent changes related to growth spurt, you may notice changes specific to puberty.

  1. Strong body odor: Puberty causes an increased production of adrenal androgens leading to body odor (10)
    . The presence of body odor usually indicates growth spurt, but in some cases, it is evident in children with delayed puberty (11).
  1. Change in voice: Research studies suggest that if a teen has developed a characteristic adult voice, then it is likely that growth spurt is decelerating (12). However, more research is needed to validate the suggestion. Change in voice is more prominent in teen boys than girls.
  1. Changes in the skin: Skin changes during puberty include the appearance of facial hair, oily skin, acne, and pigmentation caused by hormonal changes (13). These changes are intense during a growth spurt.
  1. Development of secondary sex characteristics: Sexual maturation accelerates during the pubertal growth spurt. Some of the typical signs of sexual maturation are breast development, enlargement of testicles, and enhanced pubic hair distribution. These changes are not specific to growth spurts but are likely to be more noticeable around that phase.

All these changes, along with some other physiological changes, can have an impact on the teenager.

How Does Growth Spurt Affect Teenagers?

The intense phase of adolescent development can affect a teenager in various ways (14). Some of them are:

  1. Clumsiness: Growth spurt causes the bones to lengthen, while muscles and tendons are still catching up with the growth. This variation in development can cause a lack of coordination that may increase the risk of injury (15). Avoid this by encouraging your teen to stay physically active. It will help in muscle development and also minimize the risk of injuries.
  1. Growing pains: Teens might experience pain in the lower limbs due to rapid bone growth during the growth spurt. However, medical practitioners have different views on this (16). Some suggest that growing pain during adolescence could possibly occur due to lack (or less) of physical activity.
  1. Reduced sleep: Teenagers might sleep due to a shift in their biological clock (17) caused by hormonal changes. However, this may not always be the case, as some teenagers might sleep more. Social media addiction and being on the phone may be secondary reasons for irregular sleep patterns in teens.
  1. Frequent mood swings and irritable behavior: Mood swings and irritability might occur due to stress and anxiety. Some common causes of stress/anxiety in teens are hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, peer pressure, a struggle for freedom and control.
  1. Exploring sexual orientation: It is often seen that teenagers get increasingly aware of their sexual orientation and might indulge in sexual activity. There is also likely to be increased interest in concepts of sexual intimacy.
  1. Focus on their appearance: Teenagers can get more conscious about their appearance. Physical appearance, social approval, and approval from the opposite gender could become crucial. Therefore, there is an increased risk of developing eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, especially in girls. Eating disorders can lead to stunted mental and physical growth in the long run.

While undergoing these changes, your teenager needs your help and support in this crucial stage of their life.

Tips To Help Your Teenager

Here are some ways you can support your child.

  1. Strike communication: Initiate a conversation and encourage the teen to discuss their concerns, thus helping the child feel better. Your teen might hesitate to talk, but persistent efforts will pay. You can also consult a counselor or an expert, if needed.
  1. Do not be judgemental: Avoid passing any judgments. Some problems that they have might sound trivial, but have patience and help resolve them.
  1. Be a role model: If you wish to teach your child something, then it is time for you to be a good role model. You cannot expect them to lead a healthy life if you aren’t doing the same.
  1. Serve healthy food: Serve well-balanced, wholesome meals to your teen. Keep lots of fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods in the house. Eat with your teen and support them in developing healthy eating habits.
  1. Let your teen be responsible: While eating out, let your teen make responsible choices. Discuss their health and diet concerns with a nutritionist.
  1. Encourage physical activity: Encourage your teen to do some physical activity regularly. Plan an outing together where you can indulge in activities, such as hiking, swimming, jogging, or walking. It will help them stay within a healthy weight range and boost their self-confidence.
  1. Avoid comparisons with peers: Avoid comparing your teen’s weight or height with their peers since such comparisons can have detrimental effects on their cognitive and social development. Besides, it can make them self-conscious.
  1. Do not be too pushy: Avoid being pushy, especially about sleep and wake up time. Therefore, let your child come up with a sleep and wake cycle. Help them to sleep and wake up early, but do not push them to do it in a few days.
  1. Give your teen space: Giving space to your teen is important. It will help them have their independence while knowing that you have their back. Always keep the channel of communication open to display your love and support.
  1. Give them sex education: Adolescent sexuality is something that you should talk with your teen upfront. Providing sex education to your teen not only resolves their curiosities but also makes them aware of various issues such as sexual activity and teenage pregnancy.

When To Consult A Doctor About Your Teen’s Growth Spurt?

The rate of growth spurt depends on several inter-twinning factors like heredity, diet, exercise, any health issues, etc. Nevertheless, there are specific cases where it is ideal to consult a doctor (18).

  1.  If you feel that your teen is growing at a significantly different pace than his or her peers.
  1. Unusually early onset of puberty. In medical terms, this condition is known as precocious puberty. A child with this condition will experience sexual development at an early age. For girls, it would be before the age of eight years, and for boys, it is before the age of nine years (19).
  1. The marked delay in growth or sexual development. Growth hormone deficiency is one of the causes for delayed puberty. The deficiency can cause the teen to have a short stature when compared to the average predicted height for their age (11).
  1. A sudden change in appetite that does not seem right.
  1. Body image problems where a teen believes that they are overweight when they actually are not. This case is usually more common in girls than in boys and can be a sign of an eating disorder.
  1. Signs of mental health concerns, such as depression, extreme mood swings, anxiety, hostility, and argumentative behavior.
  1. Poor academic performance, such as failing. Avoiding school and activities that your teen otherwise enjoyed.
  1. Use of drugs, alcohol, or tobacco.

Consulting a doctor can help in the timely detection of any medical issues.

A teen growth spurt can be tough to handle. However, you can help your teen manage it by being there for them. Talk to them, track their growth, and help them understand what is happening and why it is happening.

References:

1. The Growing Child: Adolescent 13 to 18 Years; Johns Hopkins Medicine
2. Your Child’s Growth; Kids Health, Nemours
3. Data Table of Stature-for-age Charts; Data Table of Stature-for-age Charts; CDC
4. Delemarre-van de Waal HA and van Coeverden SC; Hormonal determinants of pubertal growth.; National Center For Biotechnology Information
5. Iris Busscher et al.; The value of shoe size for prediction of the timing of the pubertal growth spurt; National Center For Biotechnology Information
6. Rao S and Joshi S; Growth in some physical dimensions in relation to adolescent growth spurt among rural Indian children.; National Center For Biotechnology Information
7. Stages of puberty: what happens to boys and girls; NHS
8. Weight changes in kids: Knowing when to act, what to say; Children’s Wisconsin
9. Lauren B Shomaker et al., Puberty and observed energy intake: boy, can they eat!; National Center For Biotechnology Information
10. Physiology, Puberty; National Center For Biotechnology Information
11. Delayed Puberty; National Center For Biotechnology Information
12. Hägg U and Taranger J.; Menarche and voice change as indicators of the pubertal growth spurt.;  National Center For Biotechnology Information
13. Parenting children through puberty; Victoria State Government
14. Erin Morgan and Angela Huebner; Adolescent Growth and Development; Virginia State Government
15. Physical Development: What’s Normal? What’s Not?; Healthy Children; American Academy of Pediatrics
16. Growing pains; Victoria State Government
17. Sleep in Adolescents; Nationwide Children’s
18. Growth and Development, Ages 11 to 14 Years; University of Michigan
19. Precocious Early Puberty; Boston Children’s Hospital

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