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Health & Safety

How Tall Will My Kid Be?

Parents' height, nutrition, and health all play a role

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Even in utero, it’s hard not to wonder what your babe will look like when he’s older. Will he have blue eyes or brown? Straight hair or curly? And just how tall will he be when he’s grown? Here, doctors weigh in:

 

Consider genetics. There’s no way to say exactly how tall your kid will be as an adult, but genetics plays a huge role. “While Chihuahuas will have small puppies and Great Danes will have large ones, the same typically applies to humans,” says Alan Rogol, Ph.D, M.D., professor emeritus of pediatrics at University of Virginia, an expert in growth and adolescent maturation, and former vice president of the Endocrine Society. “Tall parents are likely to have kids who are taller than average, while short parents are likely to have kids who are shorter than average.” Other than genetics, factors than can affect how tall your kid will be include nutrition, overall health, hormones, and the onset of puberty (reaching puberty three or four years earlier than average can lead to a shorter height).

Take an estimate. There are two formulas doctors use to make a very rough prediction: The first is the mid-parental target height, and it's based on the height of both parents. To calculate it, add a child's father’s height plus mother’s height together, then add five inches if you have a boy and subtract five inches if you have a girl; divide by two for an estimated height. The second calculation is to see where your toddler is on the growth chart at age two—that’s likely where he will be when he’s an adult given no serious illness or growth-inhibiting drugs. So if he’s at the 50th percentile at 2, he’ll be at the 50th percentile when he’s full-grown.


However, there’s a huge caveat here: The margin of error for both formulas is up to four inches in either direction. While 95 percent of kids will wind up in that projected eight-inch range, that’s eight inches! So, if you predict your son will be 5’9” based on the formulas, then he will most likely wind up being anywhere between 5’5 and 6”1. Such an enormous range really doesn’t tell you much, says Dr. Rogol. 

 

Keep an eye on growth charts.  Experts agree that unless a kid is abnormally short, if a child is following his or her own growth curves, and is otherwise healthy, then parents should try not to worry.  “The red flags to watch out for are when a child slips below the 3rd percentile on the height charts or is showing growth failure—falling down over major percentage lines on a growth chart,” says Dr. Rogol. “So if you were 40 percent for a few years and then declined to 10 percent, that’s worrisome.” A sharp increase in a child’s height may be cause for concern as well, as it may be a sign of early-onset puberty. If you’re concerned, talk to your pediatrician who can review your kiddo’s growth chart and possibly refer you to a specialist. 

Parenting advice is given as a suggestion only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider.