This final growth spurt describes the period of a girl's life when she enters the phase of sexual and physical development, known as puberty.
Everyone starts puberty at a different time, and genetics largely determines growth patterns. This means "normal" growth rates in humans occur within a range.
- Girls usually start and finish puberty sooner than boys.
- Everyone hits puberty at a different time.
- Girls tend to reach their adult height by the age of 14 or 15.
When does puberty start and finish in girls?
Girls tend to start puberty between the ages of 10 and 14.
Girls tend to experience a growth spurt that takes them to their adult height in their teens, as they go through puberty.
Puberty is the transition from childhood to adulthood; it describes a series of changes people go through as their bodies start to increase the production of certain hormones.
In girls, puberty tends to start between the ages of 10 and 14. The average age for girls to start puberty is about 11, but it is different for everyone.
For some puberty can start earlier or later, and this is completely normal. It tends to last until a person is around 16.
In girls, puberty before the age of 8 is atypical. It is also considered atypical if a girl has not developed breasts by the time she is 13, or has not started her periods by the age of 16. These situations require medical attention for further evaluation.
During puberty, girls will experience an acceleration in growth and will begin to have periods, known as menarche. Some girls may experience intense sexual thoughts and feelings. They may start getting zits, and the hair on their legs may get darker.
The hormones associated with puberty may also make teenagers feel emotional or moody. Again, this is perfectly normal.
When do girls stop growing in height?
Various factors including genetics impact on a girl's growth pattern.
The rate at which girls grow during puberty usually reaches its peak about 2 years after this transition period begins. Once girls start to menstruate, they typically grow another 3 or 4 inches.
However, this can vary. Girls who start their period at an earlier age can often expect to see more total inches of growth following the start of their period.
Other factors that can have an impact on height include:
- Nutrition: Malnourished children are often shorter and smaller than expected during childhood but with proper nutrition may be able to catch up before adulthood.
- Hormonal imbalances: Low thyroid or growth hormone levels, for example, can lead to slower growth rates and shorter adult height.
- Medications: The use of some medicines can slow growth. The chronic use of corticosteroids is one possible example of this. However, chronic diseases that often require corticosteroids, such as asthma, can also affect growth.
- Chronic illness: Long-term health conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, kidney disease, and celiac disease can lead to a shorter than expected adult height. Children who have had cancer may also be shorter as adults.
- Genetic conditions: Children with Down syndrome, Noonan syndrome and Turner syndrome are expected to be shorter than their peers. Those with Marfan syndrome tend to be taller.
Because growth patterns are largely determined by genetics, there is a lot of variabilities when it comes to "normal" height. Expectations for overall growth based on age come from studies of healthy populations of children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the use of growth charts from the World Health Organization (WHO) until age 2 to guide expectations. After age 2, the CDC growth charts are useful up through age 19.
When do girls breasts stop growing?
Breast development (thelarche) is usually the first sign of puberty. As a girl's body grows, she will start to develop bumps under her nipple, called breast buds. As these buds grow, they will form breasts made up of mammary glands and fatty tissues.
Certain aspects of breast size are hereditary, meaning it runs in the family. Breasts will vary in size depending on a woman's weight. After puberty, breast tissue continues to change and respond to hormones throughout a woman's life, including during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, breast-feeding, and menopause.
A female's breasts can start to develop from as young as 8 and can continue until the age of around 18.
Teenagers can sometimes feel self-conscious about this element of growing up, but it is normal to:
- have one breast slightly bigger than the other
- have sore or tender breasts at times, particularly around a period
- have bumps, pimples, or hair around the nipples
Can anything prevent or delay puberty?
Good nutrition is important for growth and development.
A well-balanced diet, which gives growing teenagers all the nutrients they need, and keeping physically active will support continued growth and proper development.
But puberty and subsequent growth can be delayed for a variety of reasons. Constitutional delay, or "being a late bloomer," describes a pattern of later development that runs in families and is nothing to worry about. These teenagers will fully develop, just later than their peers.
Girls need a certain amount of body fat before their bodies start to go through puberty. This means teenage females who do a lot of exercise may begin the process later.
Children with long-term conditions, such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, kidney disease, or asthma, may also experience delayed puberty. This may be less likely if the condition is well-controlled, with limited complications.
Problems with the pituitary or thyroid glands, which produce the hormones the body needs to grow and develop, can also delay puberty. Likewise, the chromosome problems associated with some genetic conditions can interfere with the process.
Being overweight can affect hormone levels and signal the start of puberty earlier than expected.
Nutrition is important, and someone who is malnourished can develop later than their peers. Severe malnutrition as a child can contribute to growth delays, which can have on-going effects if not corrected.
The WHO describes impaired growth in children based on expected weight for height, height for age and weight for age. Children suffering from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation are most likely to have impaired growth.
In 2013, according to the World Hunger Education Service, over 200 million children under age 5 worldwide were significantly malnourished or undernourished leaving them at risk for delayed puberty, as well as other developmental complications.
Puberty and growth patterns are different for everyone. If parents have concerns, they can talk to a healthcare professional who may be able to order further tests.
A thorough physical exam, an evaluation of eating habits, blood tests to screen for medical conditions, and X-rays that look at how the bones age and grow can be a good way to start.