height and growth: What's normal and what's not
Height and growth: What's normal and what's not

When you look at any group of people - kids or adults - you'll see a bunch of differently sized humans. Some are taller, some are shorter, some are fatter and others are slimmer.

With so many different shapes and sizes, how can we - and doctors - know if our kids are growing normally? What are potential signs or problems with the way our children are growing? And when should we be worried about height and growth?

What is normal growth?

Your child's growth is tracked on a development chart from the moment he is born. Measurements of his length, weight and head circumference are taken in the first minutes of life and these measurements are then put onto his own development chart to begin mapping his growth and development.

Doctors have been tracking the growth of children over many years and growth charts have been developed to reflect the information that has been gathered. Growth charts are used to compare the growth of children of the same age and gender as well as to follow the pattern of your child's height and weight growth over time.

Growth charts use percentile bands to plot your child's growth. These percentile bands cover the variations of 'normal' growth - and most children consistently fall somewhere between the 5th and 97th percentile bands which are all normal. If your child is in the 40th percentile for weight and length, it means that he is heavier and taller than 40% of other kids of the same age and sex. A child in the 80th percentile for weight or length is heavier or taller than 80% of other kids of the same age and sex - both children, though, fall comfortably within the 'normal' range.

Having a child high or low in the percentile bands doesn't indicate that he is more or less healthy than other children. Consistent growth along any percentile band shows 'normal' growth and may indicate nothing more than the fact that your child may be on the shorter - or taller - side of average.

What do growth charts show?

Mostly, growth charts show consistent growth from baby to older child, but in some cases, they can be used to detect development problems. For example, if your child is growing disproportionately - height and weight percentiles becoming vastly different - a growth chart will swiftly pick up on this and clearly highlight the growth pattern changes on the chart for further review.

What affects your child's height?

While genes play a huge part in predetermining how tall your child will be (eg short parents usually have short children) other factors have an impact on how much your child grows. These include:

  • Gender
  • Nutrition
  • Hormones
  • Physical activity
  • Environment
  • General health

You can work out how tall your child is going to be by using a height predictor tool:

Height 

Predictor

A quick and easy tool for predicting your child’s height.
Please complete the fields below.
Child's Gender: Girl Boy
Mother's Height:
cms
Father's Height:
cms
Child's Age:
yrs
Child's Height:
cms
Child's Weight:
kg

Estimated Adult Height

cms

Note: a wide variety of medical conditions and ethnic backgrounds can cause a child to reach an adult height different from that predicted using this tool.

Last revised: Wednesday, 21 July 2010

This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.