What Causes a Child to Grow Poorly in Height

2 min read
Apr 3, 2023

There are many reasons that a child may not grow in height. We will review many here, but this is not an exhaustive list:

  1. Genetics: Height is largely determined by genetics. If both parents are short, it’s likely that their child will be short as well. If only one parent is short, but there is a genetic reason their short gene will be stronger, a child will follow after the shorter parent’s side.
  2. Nutritional deficiencies: A lack of proper nutrition, particularly in early childhood, can lead to stunted growth. This can happen if a child doesn’t get enough protein, vitamins, or minerals in their diet. For example, this is sometimes the cause of stunted growth in children on ADHD medications, who lose their appetite. There have also been research studies that show that children with a milk allergy early in life have growth implications from their lack of access to the nutrition that dairy often provides in early childhood. 
  3. Chronic illnesses: Celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, and kidney disease can all affect a child’s growth. This is also found in inflammatory conditions, like juvenile arthritis and Crohn’s disease. These conditions can interfere with the absorption of nutrients, or the presence of inflammation, which makes it difficult for the body to use growth factors made by the body.
  4. Certain medications: Steroids, certain types of stimulant medications for ADHD, and - in rare cases - accutane, can interfere with growth and development. 
  5. Thyroid hormone imbalance: Thyroid hormone is needed to help every cell in the body work at the right rate, which includes helping it to grow at the right rate. When thyroid hormone levels are off, ideal growth may be off, as well.
  6. Sex hormones: When puberty hormones turn on at the wrong time, or are floating around in a child’s body at the wrong time, it can affect how much time a child has to grow. 
  7. Growth hormone: If a child is not making enough growth hormone, or doesn’t use that growth hormone properly, that child will not grow properly.

If you are concerned about how your child is growing, discuss this with your pediatrician. There are some initial evaluations and conversations that may alleviate your concern, or may guide you to find a pediatric endocrinologist who will be able to better tease these issues apart. There are great options to support your child’s best growth, once you understand all the aspects of health that are affecting your child.

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