Can a Short Woman Have a Tall Child?
If you are shorter than average then it is natural to wonder if your child can be taller than you are. After all, society values height and it is generally accepted that being tall is a positive trait.
The definition of tall varies depending on region/country, and also a personal opinion. Children will grow at varying rates, and while some will sprout up early on others will develop later.
It is possible for a short woman to have a taller child, but the likelihood depends on certain factors. If her partner is taller or family members on both sides are tall then there is more chance of the child inheriting taller genetics, but if they are shorter the likelihood is the child will follow this pattern.
What Determines The Height of a Child?
There is no way we can 100% determine the adult height of a child. This is because around 80% is genetic-based and 20% is down to external factors such as diet, exercise, and sleep, which also contribute to adult height. The exact influence of these 2 factors is complex and not fully understood, and as multiple genes are involved in determining height, pinpointing an exact adult height is extremely hard to do.
If we take a closer look at genetics, the mother and father of the child carry DNA strands that decide a baby's physical traits. These are inherited further down the chain, from grandparents, great-grandparents, and even further back, as this genetic code is passed down, which means that you carry the genetics of ancestors. So, if even 1 person in your family was short, or tall, you can also carry that code, which can manifest itself through your child's development. The further back you go however, the less likely this is to happen.
But, a more likely outcome can be established if we look at this as a chain of command. The first in command is the Mother and Father as they are direct links to the child, so if they are both short, then the child will most likely be short, and if they are tall the child will most likely be tall, etc.
If, however, one parent is very tall and the other is very short, the child will most likely end up somewhere in between. Although, there is also a fair chance that the child can be either shorter or taller than average, depending on which side his/her height genes are inherited from.
How to Predict The Height of a Child
There are certain formulas that can guesstimate the child's height and can be used more often than not to give an estimation, however, these are far from perfect.
One of the most accurate ways to predict a child's future height is an X-ray that can determine the age of bone at ages 4 and upwards. This has a 95% accuracy range for boys within 7cms aged 4-12 and girls within 6cms aged 4-11 (1).
Although this is one of the most accurate ways of predicting the adult height of a child, the margin of error of a few inches is large enough that if it predicts your child to be of average adult height, they could still end up either short or tall.
On the easier end of the scale, this do-it-yourself method can give a rough estimate of the adult height of a child:
- Add the mother + father's height together in inches or cm's
- Then add 5 inches for boys and subtract 5 inches for girls
- Divide by 2
As an example in inches, if the mother is 5'5" and the father is 5'8", then:
5'5"+5'8" = 11'3" (add together)
+5 inches = 11'8" for boys and -5 inches = 10.8" for girls
Divide by 2 = 5'9" for boys and 5'4" for girls
On average this provides a less accurate estimation than the bone scan method, so there is an even greater chance of the child falling outside of 2-3 inches from what it predicts the adult height to be. By using this method on myself there was a 2.5-inch error, so it is far from perfect.
The conclusion here is that outside of a rough estimate there is no precise way to determine the adult height of a child. However, there are environmental factors that are in your control that can influence height growth. (read below)
How Can Parents Help Their Child Become Tall
It is important to remember, though, that genetics are not the be-all and end-all, and with the right diet, sleep and lifestyle then you can maximize chances of growth.
A good quality diet is essential for growth. Gaining an understanding of which foods to feed is highly important as the body needs certain vitamins and minerals to aid growth. Even a basic understanding of the building blocks can help your child to be healthy and to feed the body correctly. Calcium, Vitamin D, magnesium, and phosphorus are all essential for bone health, and can be found in any supermarket near you!
Keeping active is another way to influence growth, as the body can produce growth hormones through activities that involve jumping, running, and so on. Children have a lot of excess energy and this can be used in a positive light for growth.
Sleep is another very important factor, as when we sleep our body repairs and this is where human growth hormone is released for the bones to grow longer, so make sure your child is getting a healthy amount of this. Without enough sleep growth can be stunted, and early nights will influence good quality sleep and are a great way to help your child grow.
If Both Parents Are Short Can Your Child Be Tall?
It is still possible for a child to be tall if both parents are short. This is because height can be inherited from family members lower in the family tree, including grandparents, great-grandparents, and even further back. But the lower down the family tree you go, the less likely it will be for a child to inherit tall genes.
If you and your partner's family are generally short then the likelihood of your child growing tall is highly unlikely. However, if a tall gene is in your DNA it can decide to become dominant in your child, and it is possible, although unlikely, for him/her to grow taller. Also, growth disorders can lead to shockingly tall children compared with the rest of the family.
Will a Son Always Grow Taller Than His Mother?
Due to the majority of men being taller than their partners, the son will usually be taller than the mother. I mean, I have had 100's of male friends over my lifetime and never seen one shorter than their mother.
Yet unlikely situations can influence this. If, for example, a 6-foot woman had a baby with a 5-foot man, then the chances of being shorter than the mother raises. But this is still not a definite outcome, and in this case, it is still likely he will be closer to 6 feet than 5 feet tall. Other things that could influence height are genetic conditions, or malnutrition, which can result in boys being shorter than their mothers.
Will a Child be as Tall as His Father?
This depends on how tall the mother is, as if she is taller than the father then the child should almost certainly be taller than him.
If the mother is short and the father is tall then there is more of a chance he will not reach his dad's height as short and tall parents balance out as average.
If both parents are average height then the probability is that the child will be average height also. It is important to note that many genetic variations determine height, it is impossible to 100% know if your child is going to be either short or tall, but these guidelines give a rough guess.
Can a Child be Shorter Than Both Parents?
The child's height should end up somewhere between the 2 parents. But it is possible for an adult to be shorter than both parents, but this is also unlikely.
This is because genes can come from any distant family member, so if one family member was very short it is entirely possible for this to be in the child's DNA and therefore become unusually short as a result. Again, this is not a regular occurrence and rather an exception to the rule.
Does Height Skip a Generation?
There is no set rule that height will skip a generation, but rather, like other physical characteristics it can be inherited from further down in the family tree.
For instance, if the mother and father carry the DNA of ancestors who were a certain height then the baby can end up this height too. So yes, height can skip a generation or generations, but this is not a set rule.
When asking if a short woman can have a tall child it is important to understand that genetics play a huge role in the child's final height (around 80%). This means that the father's height needs to be considered too and from there you can guesstimate the height. If both mother and father are short, then have a look at the grandparents of the child, as if they are/were tall then these genetics can be carried down in the DNA code, with the child ending up taller than the mother and father.
Through bone age scans or by using height calculators you can gain a rough estimate of a child's adult height, but these are still quite inaccurate and not a reason to sit back and relax if you like the results.
It is, however, comforting to know that there are factors in your control such as diet, exercise, and sleep, which if balanced correctly may help your child grow considerably taller than he or she would if proper guidance was absent.
1: Archives of Disease in Childhood: Prediction of adult height from height, bone age, and occurrence of menarche, at ages 4 to 16 with allowance for midparent height