The height is one of the several aspects of a child’s overall development. Parents want their children to attain the ideal height — one that matches their weight and physique. They will do all that it takes, from giving them nutritious foods to encouraging them to exercise, to promote height gain. But besides nutrition and activity, there are several other factors, including the height of the parents that can influence a child’s adult height.
So, is there a way to tell how tall children will be when they grow up? In this MomJunction post, we give you the essential information about determining a child’s final height and the factors that influence it the most.
How Tall Will My Child Be?
Experts state that it is difficult to predict how tall a child can grow since several factors determine a child’s height (1). Several physical changes also occur during puberty, and the growth spurts can increase the child’s height by two inches (five centimeters) a year (2). So it is not really possible to estimate the child’s height before puberty.
But if you still want to try and figure out your child’s probable height, you can try the methods we talk about in the next section.
Can I Estimate My Child’s Height?
1. Doubling the height
- This method is useful if your child has just turned two.
- Take the child’s height in inches at the age of two years. Multiply the height with two to arrive at the probable adult height.
- For example, if the child’s height at the age of two years is 35 inches, they will probably attain a height of 70 inches (5 feet 8 inches) as an adult.
- This method is not backed by scientific research but may still provide some idea about the child’s adult height.
2. Mid-parental height calculation method
- The mid-parental height calculation method takes into account the parent’s height to speculate the child’s adult height. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, this method gives the “child’s projected adult height based on the heights of the parents.”
- If calculating the child’s height in centimeters:
Boys: [Father’s height in cm + (Mother’s height in cm + 13cm)] / 2
Girls: [(Father’s height in cm – 13 cm) + Mother’s height in cm] / 2
- If calculating the child’s height in inches:
Boys: [(Mother’s height + Father’s height) / 2] + 2.5 inches
Girls: [(Mother’s height + Father’s height) / 2] – 2.5 inches
- The mid-parental method can have a margin of error of four inches (10.1 centimeters), either way.
3. Bone age assessment
- It is the most accurate way of predicting the child’s likely adult height. However, this method requires an X-ray and an interpretation of the X-ray by a doctor, and thus cannot be done at home.
- The bone age assessment method uses an X-ray of the hand and wrist to determine how far the bones have developed (5). Based on that, the doctor can estimate further bone formation, if any, in the child, which in turn can help predict the likely adult height of the child.
- Depending on the age of the child, the doctor may take an X-ray of the other areas of the body, such as the clavicle, to estimate the height (6).
- Doctors usually go for the bone age assessment method for children who seem to have a considerably shorter or taller stature for their age.
The above methods only provide an estimate and not the definite adult height. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that when it comes to the child’s adult height, “no one has a crystal ball.” So there is no way to know for sure how tall your son or daughter will be as an adult.
What Factors Influence The Child’s Height As An Adult?
Several environmental conditions and natural attributes affect the child’s adult height. Some of those viral factors are explained here.
1. Genetics and family history
The parents’ height plays a significant role in how tall the child will be — the genes determine around 80% of the child’s adult height (1). That is why children grow up to a height that is more or less the same as the parents’ height.
Note that a single gene doesn’t determine the height; more than 700 gene variants can influence how tall your child will be. An interplay of the genes influences the child’s height, as genes interact with one another in several ways, and could result in exceptions. It means that parents who are short in height may have a child who is tall and tall parents may have a child with a shorter stature.
2. Health and nutrition
A child’s overall health plus the nourishment they receive will also influence their height. Malnourished children may develop a short stature as an adult. Children who do not get enough nutrition to support healthy growth are at risk of having short stature, in spite of their parents being tall.
Physical activity of the child may also have an influence on their height as an adult. However, experts state that regular exercise in childhood does not guarantee a better height as an adult.
3. Diseases and congenital problems
Several congenital problems and childhood diseases can impact the outcome of the child’s height as an adult. These conditions can be an outcome of poor nutrition or the result of a genetic anomaly. For example, rickets, which is caused by a low level of vitamin D in the body, is known to result in short stature (7).
A few examples of congenital genetic problems that cause a short stature are Noonan syndrome, Down syndrome, and Turner syndrome. Some conditions like Marfan syndrome can cause a child to become tall and slender (8). Some forms of cancer may also cause abnormalities in height (3).
4. Level of hormones
Hormonal imbalance can also influence the child’s height. Problems in the pituitary gland can cause too much or too little secretion of the growth hormone due to which the child can grow too tall or remain too short as an adult (9). The secretion of thyroid hormones plays an essential role too.
Certain medicines may have an impact on the adult height of the child. For instance, long-term use of inhaled corticosteroids by children with asthma may reduce the adult height by a centimeter (10). Nevertheless, the effect of the medicine on adult height can depend on the concentration of dosage, the duration of the prescription, and overall health of the child.
Except for genetics and congenital problems, other factors may be controlled to some extent.
When To Be Concerned About The Child’s Height?
It will be ideal to see a physician if:
- The child is significantly shorter or taller than most children of their age. The best way to check is to compare the child’s height with that of their classmates or cousins of the same age.
- There is a sudden and rapid increase in the height of the child who was otherwise displaying an average growth.
- The child appears to have stopped growing and is showing no signs of gaining height.
- There is a change in the way the child grows after they started taking specific medicines.
Keeping track of the child’s height as they grow in age can help determine whether or not their growth pattern is normal.
Resources To Check Child’s Height
You can use the following resources to determine the average growth of a child’s height:
1. CDC growth charts
Since several factors can influence height, growth charts can be used to check for the healthy growth of the child, in comparison to other children of the same age. CDC growth charts are created by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for healthcare professionals and parents. You can plot the height of the child to know if they fall in the normal range.
The chart divides the height based on the percentile ranging from the 5th percentile to the 95th percentile. If your child’s height lies below the 5th percentile or is greater than the 95th percentile, then it is ideal to see a doctor.
The following are the charts for boys and girls:
2. MomJunction height calculator
You can also try MomJunction’s height calculator that was developed to help parents determine the height of their child. Click here to use the calculator.
While a good height is desirable, it shouldn’t be a concern as long as your child is healthy. Remember, the height of a child as an adult will significantly depend on the parents’ height, and there is nothing one can do to change it. Continue to provide the best nourishment and lots of love to your little one so that they grow into healthy individuals with ideal weight and height.
How often do you track your child’s height? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
2. Physical Changes During Puberty; American Academy of Pediatrics
3. Predicting a Child’s Adult Height; American Academy of Pediatrics
4. Evaluation of Short and Tall Stature in Children; American Academy of Family Physician
5. A.L. Creo and W.F. Schwenk, Bone Age: A Handy Tool for Pediatric Providers; American Academy of Pediatrics
6. A.M. Mughal et al., Bone Age Assessment Methods: A Critical Review; National Center for Biotechnology Information
7. Short stature; U.S. National Library of Medicine
8. Marfan syndrome; U.S. National Library of Medicine
9. Growth Disorders; U.S. National Library of Medicine
10. Y.K. Loke et al., Impact of Inhaled Corticosteroids on Growth in Children with Asthma: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis; National Center for Biotechnology Information
- Growth Hormone Deficiency In Children – Causes, Symptoms & Diagnosis
- 12 Major Stages Of Early Child Development
- How Does The Environment Influence A Child’s Growth And Development?
- A Child’s Physical Development – Everything You Need To Know Is Right Here
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