Genetics comes into play when estimating what your child’s adult height may be. But it’s not the only thing.
Dr. Natalie Muth, a pediatrician for the American Academy of Pediatrics, California Chapter 3, says that determining how tall your child will become isn’t something you can figure with absolute accuracy. That said, she notes that, “most kids tend to track on a similar percentile curve on the growth chart after the age of about 2 to 3 years. The pediatrician can use the growth chart to track the percentile curve to an anticipated adult height.”
You can also make your own predictions of your child’s adult height based on this simple calculation using the height of the child’s mother and father. This calculator has an error rate of about 10 percent.
Dr. Muth adds that though these are good estimates there is no fault-free way to estimate your child’s precise adult height.
Other determining factors
While Dr. Muth notes that height is mostly based on genetics, many environmental factors can determine whether a child achieves his “full growth potential.”
She says, “For example, while moderate levels of physical activity benefit growth, intensive physical training during childhood can negatively impact growth. Athletes who are most affected are those who engage in intensive training more than 18 hours per week and who restrict or limit calories such as gymnasts — especially male gymnasts. Additionally, overweight females who go through puberty early due to the effects of excess weight may also at be risk for decreased adult height, though the same does not appear to be true for boys.”
So when it comes to nutrition — whether your child is eating his broccoli or drinking enough milk — what’s the real deal on how it may impact your child’s growth? Dr. Muth says, “Whether or not a child drinks his milk or eats his broccoli has an impact on overall health and helps a child to attain many needed nutrients, but as long as the child doesn’t have any nutritional deficiencies and consumes sufficient calories for growth — but not too much as to become very overweight — adult height will probably not be impacted.”
However, she adds, “Ensuring adequate sleep, avoiding overweight or severe underweight and ensuring adequate nutrient intake can help a child to achieve full genetic growth potential.”
Don’t be afraid of heights (or lack thereof)
For the most part, there is no need to be concerned about your child’s estimated adult height. However, Dr. Muth notes that your child’s growth should be discussed with the child’s pediatrician at every well visit. She says, “If there is a severe discrepancy between an estimated height and how the child is actually growing, the pediatrician can help to explore causes for this with the family.”