How Short Kids Measure Up to Their Peers
Relax Parents, Study Shows Short Children Aren't More Prone to Emotional or Social Problems
Aug. 17, 2009 -- Parents of short children, stop worrying. A new study shows
that short children are no more likely to be depressed, unpopular with their
classmates, or have other social and emotional problems than their taller
The study, published in Pediatrics, analyzed data on 712
sixth-graders. Twenty-eight children were classified as having short stature
(they were below the 10th percentile on a growth chart); the remaining children
were non-short stature (10th percentile and up). Average height was considered
between 25th and 75th percentiles.
The children's social and emotional well-being was measured through a number
of questionnaires answered by their teachers and the children themselves. Short
children reported slightly higher levels of being victimized or teased by their
peers, but there was no difference on other measures of depression, behavioral
problems, or popularity.
As soon as a baby is born, pediatricians start monitoring that child’s
height and weight by percentile. Although low numbers may create anxiety in
parents, that anxiety is likely unwarranted, the researchers write.
The short children in the study "reported marginally higher levels of peer
victimization ... this was not associated with poorer adaptation," conclude
Joyce Lee, MD, MPH with the department of pediatrics at the University of
Michigan, Ann Arbor, and colleagues.
Short children may interpret the everyday teasing as more significant
because their parents “verbalize concerns about their child’s height and its
possible negative impact on social functioning,” the researchers write. The
authors encourage pediatricians to reassure parents who are concerned.