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What is a Growth Spurt During Puberty?

Posted on Nov 16, 2020

Adolescence is a time of change including in physical development, cognitive changes, psychological changes and even social development. One the most obvious and typically the most noticeable physical change of puberty is the growth spurt. 

On this week’s On Call for All KidsJasmine Reese, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Specialty Clinic at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics for Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, tells us more about growth spurts.

Height increase averages out to be about 6 centimeters (2.4 inches) per year throughout childhood. Then there is a period of slow growth right before puberty. Once puberty starts, there is a sharp increase in growth of about 8 centimeters/year.

Peak growth for girls is typically 6-12 months before the onset of their menstrual cycle (menarche) and then significantly slows down after that. Girls can expect to grow an average of about 2-3 inches after menarche. 

Boys tend to have their growth spurt about two years later than girls. Peak growth for boys is right before spermarche (sperm in seminal fluid) and is about 9 centimeters/year. Growth spurts for boys tend to last longer than for girls. 

How tall will my child be?

Oftentimes, families want to know how tall their kids are going to be and there are simple formulas used to predict adult height. These include, for boys: calculate the father’s height plus 5 inches plus the mother’s height and then divide by two; for girls: take the father’s height minus 5 inches plus the mother’s height and then divide by two. 

Although the puberty experience is unique to each individual the pattern and order of puberty is pretty consistent and predictable. Some teens may go through puberty a bit slower than others, which can often be a hereditary pattern and we call this constitutional delay. However, if the pattern varies, for example missing a growth spurt or lack of menstrual cycle by age 16, then parents should have their teens evaluated by their pediatrician. 

Nutrition is a very important factor in puberty and development. Especially during the growth spurt, teens tend to have greater nutritional needs to support growth in height. Parents may notice that their teens have a greater appetite during this time, which makes consuming and maintaining a balanced diet throughout puberty extremely important.

Studies suggest that weight can affect the progression and onset of puberty, for example, eating a lot of processed and high fat foods may lead to early onset of puberty in girls, which may be why we see that some girls have menarche at young ages compared to others. In contrast, skipping meals throughout the day can negatively impact growth and development or even slow its progression. 

On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital medical experts. Visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Stories each Monday for the latest report.

Visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Puberty for more information.
 


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