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June 27th, 2011
07:54 AM ET

Why am I only 5 feet tall?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Asked by Grayson from Texas

I'm a boy and I'm 14 years old. I'm also exactly 5 feet tall. What is wrong with me?

Expert answer

Thanks for your question. Many kids are concerned about their size and I hear comments like this often. Since being 5 feet tall at your age is in the normal range, my first instinct is to say that there is nothing wrong with your height at all.

Without knowing more about your past growth, family background, medical conditions, etc., it's not possible to give details but here is some information that I can provide.

A person's height is largely determined by genetics, especially how tall your parents and grandparents are and how tall people of a similar genetic background are.

In the United States, the average adult height for men is about 5 feet 9.5 inches, but this number differs widely in different countries - for example, 5 feet 5 inches in India and about 6 feet in the Netherlands.

One way to estimate a person's adult height is to determine what's called the mid-parental height. For a quick rough calculation, take an average of both parents' heights and add 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) for boys or subtract 1 inch for girls. A person's final height is expected to be within about 2 inches (5 centimeters) below or above the mid-parental height number.

A height of 5 feet is at the 10th percentile for 14-year-old boys, meaning that out of a group of 100 boys who are your same age, you would be taller than about 10 of them. (If you are closer to 15 years old, this percentile would be slightly lower.)

Short stature is defined as being less than two standard deviations (about the third percentile) below average for age and gender. For 14-year-old boys, being less than about 58 inches is considered short stature.

Growth charts for boys and girls at all ages

Keep in mind that there are many people who have a growth spurt later in life (such as after high school) and it's possible to continue growing until one's late teens or mid-twenties. Again, your family's growth patterns will affect whether you follow the typical growth curve or peak relatively early or relatively late.

If you have more questions about your height, please consult with your pediatrician and possibly a pediatric endocrinologist, as it may be necessary to rule out medical problems such as digestive issues, heart problems or low thyroid or growth hormone levels.

Treating any medical conditions that exist can help and, when appropriate, growth hormone injections can increase a person's ultimate height if started before puberty.

Good luck!

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soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. DB

    I heard that for girls growth stops after puberty. If girls of different ethnicity reach puberty at different mean ages, how good of a predictor can growth chart be?

    June 27, 2011 at 08:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JK

      Girls don't stop growing after puberty, they slow down. Usually the big growth spurt for girls is just before puberty. Boys get their growth spurt during/after puberty – a bit later. But I grew nearly an inch and a half in college when I was nineteen (once I got off some medication that turned out to stunt my growth a bit).

      June 27, 2011 at 16:31 | Report abuse |
  2. JB

    Sounds like this kid has a thyroid problem.

    June 27, 2011 at 09:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TXpresby

      You can't diagnose that he has a thyroid problem just because he is 14 and is 5 feet tall. You don't have any data to suggest that. I am 5'-6" and my husband is 5'-10. My 14-year-old son is just over 5 feet tall. He doesn't have a thyroid problem either. He is built like my dad who was a wiry little Frenchman. He is likely to be small. That's just the way it is. What is hard for my son to take, and possibly it is the same for the boy that posted the question, there are some BIG kids now that reach nearly 6 feet by 8th grade...both boys and girls! It is easy to say, like debbie posted here, to "get over it" but not so easily done for a teenager. By the way, how many men of short stature do you know that never "got over it"? Lots in my neck of the woods!

      June 27, 2011 at 09:30 | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      That comment is ridiculous. When I was 14, I was 5' tall and weighed 92 lbs. Did I have a glandular problem? No, now I'm 5'-11". I grew 6" when I was 15. He's a 14 year old boy, support him, don't kick him while he's down.

      July 6, 2011 at 12:58 | Report abuse |
  3. debbie

    some people are just not going to be tall, end of story, there are worse things, get over it

    June 27, 2011 at 09:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. leecherius

    Look at the bright side .. you'll be banging your head on things a lot less..

    June 27, 2011 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. bluesky

    Suggestions that the normal distribution of height be skewed by administering growth hormone drugs to the 3% or 5% of shortest kids is bad medicine. Shortness isn't a disease (usually).

    June 27, 2011 at 09:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Chris

    He'll probably have another growth spurt... he's only 14. I always laughed at my friends because when I was 14, I was 5'7", and taller than most of them. Unfortunately, I am still 5'7" today... because I stopped growing at 15! So when they all kept going and hit 6', I felt like an idiot.

    June 27, 2011 at 09:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Lorin

    I'm 26 and 5 feet, what's this kids point?

    June 27, 2011 at 10:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. STeve

    No real reason for the kid to worry. At 14 I was probably 5'3" and 90 something pounds. Everyone else started to grow except for me. At 15 I was maybe 5'6" and 115 lbs. I grew during my freshman year of college even and am now 6'1". Yeah, it sucked being one of the smaller kids, going from being a pretty good athlete to getting pushing around on the field by the larger kids but I caught up and then some.

    June 27, 2011 at 10:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. KD

    A former boyfriend of mine was considered 'small' when he was a freshman in high school...he was around 5 feet tall. By the time he graduated he was 6'3 and kept growing until he was between 23-25. He is now 6'6. He knew he would probably be taller because his Dad was 6'4 and his mom was 6'0. HOWEVER, I'm 5'2 and stopped growing in the 8th grade, which isn't too short for a girl but my mom is 5'7, my dad is 6'1, my little sister is 5'8 and my brother is 6'0. sometimes you're like me and just become the runt in the family :O)

    June 27, 2011 at 10:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Dean

    A lot of people are just palin old short.

    June 27, 2011 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. DG

    I was also short around that time, about 4'10" and we went and got a blood test. It turns out that I had celiac disease (gluten intolerance) and one of the symptoms in me was stunted growth. I stopped eating food with gluten and now at 20 I am 5'10", where my father is 6' and mom is 5'3". Some people take longer to grow but sometimes it may be something else–look into it. I know celiac or gluten intolerance is being discovered in more kids; if you have stomach aches or fatigue after eating bread its worth looking into.

    June 28, 2011 at 16:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Joanna

    I'm the tallest in my family and I really think it has a lot to do with what I did during one of the growing spurts. I ate a lot, including vitamins. I slept a lot more. My parents were kind enough to let me sleep. I mean 16 hours a day sleep. I was always hungry or sleepy. You need to sleep to grow. I ended up growing 5 inches in 3 months. My younger sister didn't allow herself to eat (she was afraid of being fat) and she ended up much shorter than she probably should have been... Sleep and Eat Healthy when your body demands it... it will help with the growth.

    June 29, 2011 at 03:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Allie

    Don't worry, kid. I grew considerably in high school and even college. Plus, a lot of us short girls really, really liked dating guys who weren't a foot taller than we were! It was really nice to have a date who was clever, kind, and close enough in height that i really could put my head on his shoulder rather than hope my nose didn't land in his armpit. (My fiance' is only 5 inches taller than I.)

    June 30, 2011 at 15:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. ctb67

    I am 5'. My mom was 5'4" and my dad is 5'3". I had a hyperactive thyroid and had to eat constantly to keep on the pounds. My husband is 6'5" (makes dancing interesting) and the doc says our boys should be nearer to 6'3" and my daughters topped out at 5'5". You need to be happy with what the great spirit gave ya. Like in Star Wars when he says "there is always a bigger fish", there is always going to be somebody taller, shorter, smarter, richer or popular. What is important is what is in your heart.....You won't know 98% of the people you went to high school with 20 years from now, and you will be surprised how some of their lives turn out and how some may even have envied YOU in school. Don't worry, be happy.

    June 30, 2011 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. klebinek

    I have an autoimmune disease and feel that I would be taller if it wasn't for the fact that I was diagnosed while still growing which may have stunned my growth.

    http://crohnsdiseasediagnosis.blogspot.com/

    July 1, 2011 at 15:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Molly

    My dad was 4'10 (maybe 4'11) until he was 16. That summer (right before senior year of high school) he had a growth spurt and is now 5'9.

    July 1, 2011 at 18:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Dea2

    My son was the same way, he was actually in the -5 %tile on his growth chart for many years, and was only expected to reach 5'6", if he was lucky. However, short stature until mid teens, then a huge growth spurt is normal in my family so I never worried. He is now 21 years old, 5'10" tall and still growing. Family history has a lot to do with growth patterns so check to see if male family members from either side were the same way

    July 4, 2011 at 10:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. TexasCutie

    At 14 I was 4 feet tall. At 24 I'm 4'10". I'm not short, I'm "fun size"

    July 15, 2011 at 09:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Jimmy

    Dont worry too much, I didn't have a growth spurt until I was a junior in hs, and now I'm 6'-4"

    July 17, 2011 at 19:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. John

    I started High School at 5 foot even, much like you....I finished High school 6'2"....I routinley came back from summer break a couple of inches taller, don't worry kid...if its in your DNA you'll get there

    July 22, 2011 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Anna

    im now 13 in middle school im an 8th grader and im 5"1 because this one guyanese kid hes like 13 or 14 and hes 5"1 and i dont look like his height so i probably didnt actually grow im still and inch shorter than him..... i doubt i will grow i just want to grow the height up to like 5"5 or 5"6 and ill be totally fine if my growing stage ends there cause if i was tht height 5"6 i woulndt be made fun of my height i would be perfeclt fine !

    September 23, 2011 at 16:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Abdullah

    I'm a boy and I'm 18 years old. I'm also exactly 5 feet 2 inch tall. What is wrong with me? ;(

    March 11, 2012 at 03:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Abdullah

    I'm a boy and I'm 18 years old. I'm also exactly 5 feet 2 inch tall. What is wrong with me?

    March 11, 2012 at 03:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Matt

    Im 16 and like 5'5 or 5'6 and its guud. Lol (:

    October 1, 2012 at 13:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. John

    I really shouldn't be on here I'm 14 and 6'2

    October 4, 2012 at 01:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Christine Nicoll

    I am 34 yrs old and I am only 5 ft tall, the freaky thing about it is that I have been this height since I was 8 yrs old. Both my parents are taller than me and my sisters are taller than me (my youngest sister has different father). All my cousins on both sides are taller than me and I got the short end of it all. My first born is my height but her brother towers over us at the age of 13. Because of my short stature I have hip and rib problems. The side of my ribs slightly rub against my hips as there is hardly any space between them as there should be, none of the doctors I have been to will do anything about it...They refuse to inform on what the reason is...I also have family members that are over 6 feet tall.....Why am I this short?

    June 8, 2013 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply

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