We’ve all seen it happen. Children are born, and before anyone realizes it, they’ve already outgrown you—seemingly overnight.
While this is a funny occurrence with someone else’s kids, when it comes to your own, it’s a good idea to be on the ball when it comes to their growth. And not just their growth, but their expected height and the timeline of how it’ll look like.
We’ll be looking at girls and what their height is dependent on, the factors that might delay growth spurts, and ways on estimating height.
Monitoring your child’s height when they’re born almost becomes a job in of itself, and for good reason. It’s always a good idea to make sure that your baby is on track.
Depending on how far along your child is, you might’ve noticed how much your baby’s grown in the first few months of their lives. And that extends all the way up to the growth spurt that happens during puberty.
The average girl will grow approximately 10 inches in her first year, followed by about 5 inches per year from ages 1 to 2. After that, the median growth is about 3 ½ inches per year, until they hit puberty. By the time kids have reached the age of 4, most of them will have doubled their height at birth.
Girls tend to grow all the way up to ages 14 to 15, with a final growth spurt spurred on by puberty. Furthermore, the median height in the USA for adult women over the age of 20 is just under 5 feet and 4 inches—which is the age-adjusted height.
This differs from boys significantly, since not only does their growth spurt come later, but they also continue growing into their college years.
For girls, however, the puberty growth spurt is usually what their adult height will be, which is why the conversation of girls’ height is so intertwined with the conversation around puberty.
This transition from childhood to adulthood describes a series of both mental and physical changes that people go through depending on the hormones which their bodies produce, differing in terms of sex. For girls, these changes tend to begin happening between the ages of 10 and 14, with the average start for girls’ puberty being 11. It is, however, important to note that these changes are different for everyone. And since puberty comes at different times for each person, one can expect that growth will also stop at different ages for different people.
Puberty tends to last until 16 years of age. However, if puberty for girls happens before the age of 8, this is considered atypical and it’s recommended to see a pediatrician. Likewise, it is also considered atypical if a girl has not developed breasts by the age of 13, nor began her menstrual cycle by the time she’s 16.
However, the average girl will stop growing about 2 to 2 ½ years after her first period (known as the menarche). There is also an important connection between height, puberty, and breast development.
The development of the breasts, otherwise known as “thelarche”, is usually the very first sign of puberty. This begins with the development of breast buds, which will in time form into mammary glands and fatty tissues. In regards to a timeline, breasts can begin developing 2 to 2 ½ years before a girl begins her first menstrual cycle.
However, this varies from person to person. Some girls may not notice breast buds until a year after first menstruation, and others may only see developing breasts from 3 to 4 years after. Furthermore, the breast buds may not develop at the same time, but will usually appear sometime within 6 months of each other.
Breast development is both hereditary and dependant on environmental aspects. Many of these aspects run in the family, but breast size also depends on the women’s weight. Breast tissue continues to change after puberty because of the various hormones which affect it during a women’s life. This includes scenarios such as pregnancy, breastfeeding, the menstrual cycle, and menopause.
It is normal for breasts to continue developing until around the age of 18, but it’s also important to take into account the many factors we’ve touched on above.
Furthermore, it’s also normal to have one breast slightly larger than the other. Puberty can also bring along bumps, hairs, or pimples around the nipples, along with soreness—particularly around the menstrual cycle.
But this isn’t the only way in which boys and girls differ from one another.
Things are slightly different with boys, especially when it comes to puberty and their growth spurts.
For boys, puberty usually begins earlier than for girls, between the ages of 10 and 13. Similarly, growth spurts usually happen 2 to 3 years after puberty begins, around the ages of 12 and 15. When speaking in averages, this means that a boy’s growth spurt usually happens about 2 years after a girl’s.
Boys usually stop gaining significant height by the age of 16, but their development can continue into their college years—late teens to early 20s at the maximum. While the height development is minimal during these years, there is some significant development when it comes to muscles.
A parallel can be drawn to girls in this regard.
Something to keep in mind is that a girl’s bone density will continue to develop after she stops growing. Furthermore, her muscles will also develop to a lesser degree. There have been parallels drawn between earlier first menstruations and greater bone densities, while those who often miss their periods usually have a lower bone density.
Bones in girls become thicker, heavier, and denser up until about the age of 25. Along with the bones, the muscles will also develop to some degree.
As with most things when it comes to human physiology, height, and growth, in general, are complex functions of both nature and nurture aspects of life.
One of the biggest things to look at is genetics. If the father and mother are tall, chances are that the child will end up being tall as well—simple enough.
However, it’s not always as easy as that. While the hereditary aspect is very useful in estimating the “end” height of a girl, there’s also a number of other things that come into play and can have an even larger effect on final adult height.
One of the most important of these “nurture” aspects is, as you might’ve guessed, nutrients. It’s no surprise that malnourished children and those living in poverty will most likely not reach their full adult height potential. The human body needs the proper macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals in order to properly function and grow—and there is no time where that’s more important than in the child’s developmental stage and puberty.
Even if the child doesn’t exhibit any deficits in terms of body weight when it comes to height, it’s always a good idea to check a growth curve to see if the child is on the track they’re supposed to be on.
However, even if a teen has been malnourished for a while, it’s possible to “bounce back” in terms of development, even in the later stages of growth before adulthood. This obviously necessitates a step in the direction of better nutrition. Always emphasize the consumption of whole foods that are varied, fresh, and of high quality, whenever you’re able to.
But food isn’t the only thing you can put in your body that has an influence on height gain.
Some medications slow or stunt growth as well. For example, an overuse of corticosteroids (anti-inflammatory medication that helps with asthma and arthritis) during puberty can slow down growth. Obviously, one shouldn’t stop using these medications because of this slow-growth aspect, and it’s always best to talk to your doctor beforehand. Furthermore, keep in mind that diseases which require corticosteroids (such as aforementioned asthma), can also negatively affect growth.
There have been some studies that have shown that ADHD medications can also slow down or stunt growth, but there doesn’t seem to be a consensus as of yet. Best to speak to one’s doctor and find out the best way forward.
Speaking of chronic illnesses, asthma isn’t the only one that can negatively affect potential height gain. Especially when it comes to long-term health conditions such as kidney diseases, celiac disease, and cystic fibrosis—all of these can result in shorter adult heights. Furthermore, those children who have battled against cancer may also have a shorter height as adults than they otherwise would’ve had.
Additionally, hormonal imbalances may also prevent a child from reaching their maximum potential height. A low thyroid and low growth hormone levels are two examples that can have a detrimental effect on height.
And finally, there are genetic conditions that play a role in development. But unlike the genetic conditions that deal with the parents’ height, these are atypical conditions that can lead to a reduced height. For example, Noonan syndrome, Turner syndrome, and Down syndrome are all conditions that usually lead to shorter children.
On the other hand, however, we have Marfan syndrome. This inherited condition affects 1 in 5000 people, and mainly affects the connective tissues in the body. It ranges from mild to life-threatening, but corrective therapy and treatment will mean that life expectancy is the same for people with and without Marfan Syndrome.
The interesting thing about this syndrome is that people with it tend to be taller than average, with unusually long fingers and arms.
As we can see, there’s a large number of variables that go into “setting” the height of a girl as she grows into her adult age. Expectations of overall growth are subject to many variabilities that makes it difficult to estimate height or see where a child should be on a height chart.
This effectively gives us two ways to estimate the potential adult height of a relatively healthy girl.
The first method is the “mid-parental height” calculator—since the best way to estimate someone’s height is by using their family history. But keep in mind, although this is a commonly used method of estimating height, it still doesn’t come too close, with a margin of error between 3 and 4 inches.
Nevertheless, this is how it works. You take the father’s height and subtract 5 inches, and then add that number to the mother’s height. After you have that number, you divide it by 2. The resulting number is the estimated height of the girl, plus or minus anywhere from 3 to 4 inches.
An example would be a 5’10” father and a mother who is 5’5”.
With the father’s height of 5’10”, take away 5 inches to get 5’5”. Add that to the mother’s height of 5’5” and you get 11 feet. Divide by two and you have your estimate: 5 feet and 5 inches. And keep in mind the significant margin of error, so the real height could be anywhere from 5’1” to 5’9”—not to mention all of the other factors that might come into play during adolescence.
If trying to find the predicted height of a boy, on the other hand, you would add 5 inches to the father’s height instead of taking it away. In general, the taller the parents, the taller the child will be.
The other method of estimation utilizes the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s girls’ growth chart. It normally has a more exact estimation than the method above, so it’s a good idea to check it once in a while.
Using the example of a girl at age 10 at the 50th percentile (average height) would put her at 4’6”. That means that by age 20, she should be just over 5’3”—giving us the median age of women, adjusted for age.
The chart is useful because it has the benefit of being created with a large sample size and can therefore properly estimate future growth and potential height. To use it, just find the age of the girl and match it up with the current height. Then, follow the line up and reference the final height it lands on.
A chart like the CDC’s is a great way to see if there’s any atypical development going on—whether that might mean being taller or being shorter than expected.
As we mentioned above, it’s also important to keep in mind the development of the breasts, puberty, and the first menstrual cycle.
If puberty for a girl happens before the age of 8, this is considered atypical and it’s recommended to see a pediatrician. Likewise, it is also considered atypical if a girl has not developed breasts by the age of 13 and/or not begun her menstrual cycle by the time she’s 15 or 16.
Similarly, it’s best to see a doctor if a girl begins showing signs of puberty too early, at 6 or 7 years old. Whatever extreme the girl is at, it’s best to have a doctor take a look because such development may be a sign of medical problems or some kind of hormonal imbalances.
One of the many tools that pediatricians can use to determine health problems is an X-ray. By checking out the bones of a child, they can determine if they’re on track to reach their expected height. Blood tests might also be taken to determine if there are any diseases that might be affecting growth and development.
So, in summarizing the points above, girls stop growing around the ages of 14 or 15. This age is dependent on the first menstrual cycle and when puberty hits. Growth usually stops 2 to 2 ½ years after the first cycle. The average age of grown women is 5’4’’, and if you want to see if your child is on track, the CDC growth chart is a great place to start.
Breast development usually stops at around age 18, but it comes down to the hormonal changes throughout the life of the women which dictate the final size of breast tissue.
There are near-infinite combinations of factors that guide the development of a girl, first and foremost being genetics—the height of her parents. Other than genetics, height can come down to medication, hormones, illnesses, and genetic conditions.
For any developing young body, it’s essential that they get enough sleep, are eating a balanced diet, and are also taking part in some kind of physical activity regularly. Barring illness, late bloomers, or other circumstances, a well-rounded routine that takes health as a priority will have every child on track with their growth rate on the curve.