One of the frequent concerns of parents concerns the growth in height of their children: in this study we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the growth of children and adolescents.
The speed of growth varies a lot in the different stages of development: it is maximum immediately after birth (the baby born at term increases its length by 30% in the first 5 months) and during the first year of life (increase of 50%).
The speed of growth in the first two years of life changes in relation to the genetic component: the length at birth is mainly linked to the height of the mother, the genetic influence of the father usually manifests itself after 2 years of age.
This explains why some “small” children in relation to age can recover later, or why the growth of “big” children slows down.
In any case, the growth rate decreases from the 2nd year of age: from this point a more regular growth phase begins up to pubertal age (10 – 14 years), in which we witness the growth spurt of puberty ( growth rate peak).
After puberty, growth slows dramatically and stops as you reach adult stature.
The hereditary factor is one of the most important in determining the height of a boy or girl.
The height of a child is closely linked to that of the parents: tall parents are more likely to have tall children, vice versa those of short stature.
The baby must be fed adequately both before and after birth, both qualitatively and quantitatively.
Poor and / or inadequate nutrition has negative effects earlier on body weight and, consequently, also on length or height.
But also the tendency to overfeed children, with the intention of making them grow up quickly or better, could actually produce the opposite effect: normal growth is also negatively affected by the states of excessive nutrition that lead to obesity.
The growth process involves numerous hormones which are produced in adequate quantities in healthy children. Some endocrine diseases, present at birth or acquired subsequently, can therefore negatively influence the growth of the body.
Among these we find, for example, growth hormone deficiency, hypothyroidism, hypercortisolism, vitamin D metabolism disorders, type 1 diabetes mellitus and others.
Since growth is a process that lasts over time, the negative effects of a possible hormonal imbalance (deficiency or excess) only manifest themselves when this has a relatively long duration.
Generally, in cases of hormonal imbalance, weight changes in the opposite direction to height: children of short stature due to hormonal causes therefore tend to be overweight.
Early sexual development can lead to tall stature but ultimately short stature. In fact, sex hormones have a different impact on growth depending on when their action occurs: in fact, they cause an initial acceleration of growth, followed, however, by a stop following the early sealing of the cartilages.
Conversely, children with late pubertal development – initially shorter than their peers – can grow longer, allowing a recovery at a later age.
There is no doubt that intense psychological or emotional stress, such as situations of abuse, psychosocial deprivation or mistreatment, have a negative impact on growth.
The reasons for this connection are not completely known, but it is certain that the interaction between mind and body can cause a suppression of the production of growth hormones.
Even less serious psychological disorders could affect growth causing it to slow down, albeit in a less evident way and more difficult to identify: conditions of unhappiness, loneliness, fear or anxiety that arise for example in situations of family tension, insecurity or even academic difficulties .
In case of doubts about the growth of children, it is always advisable to consult your pediatrician and, if necessary, the specialist doctor: the auxologist.
Auxology (from the Greek auxo “to increase”) is the discipline that deals with the growth of the child’s body weight and the adolescent’s pubertal and sexual development.
The Auxology Unit of the Italian Auxological Institute has been a point of reference for the whole national territory for over 30 years.
It deals with the multidisciplinary integrated treatment of children and adolescents suffering from severe obesity (including patients co