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When children reach the age of 11 to 14, they enter early adolescence, a time when the body changes rapidly, and coincides with puberty. They usually experience a growth spurt, which is a period when their height suddenly increases, accompanied by an increase in muscle and bone growth. Their appetite increases, as well as the amount of body fat they acquire.

Puberty coincides with this adolescent stage growth spurt, so girls may start developing breasts and having their periods, while boys may start growing facial hair and changing their voices. These physical, plus their emotional and cognitive changes, may cause early teens to become clumsy and awkward, but in time, their brains and bodies eventually adjust and develop better coordination.

Height, Weight and Body Mass Index

A person's height is mostly determined by genetic factors, although his nutritional and health status have some influence on one's potential for growth. Female adolescents grow an average of 3-4 inches/year before puberty, after which growth rate slows down. Boys are about 2 years behind in development, growing slower initially, then increases in height by 3.5-5 inches yearly after puberty.

On the other hand, an adolescent's weight changes every month, and is influenced by the sex of the individual. Weight also changes with height. Therefore, a definite healthy weight range cannot be provided for adolescents.

It is considered more appropriate to determine if an individual has a healthy amount of body fat based on both his height and weight. As with adults, body fatness of children and teens may be calculated using their body mass index (BMI), which is based on their height and weight. It is not a direct measure of body fat, but it can help screen for unhealthy weight. For adolescents and children, BMI is sex-specific and age-specific.

If you know the exact weight and height of your child or teen, you can calculate their BMI using the Child and Teen BMI Calculator. It is important to remember that the amount of body fat changes with age and differs between girls and boys. For the same reasons, one must not interpret a child/teen's BMI the same way as an adult's BMI.

You can use the CDC BMI-for-age growth charts for girls and boys to translate the results of your calculation into a percentile value, which compares your child's body fatness to most children, based on sex and age. You can then find the category under which you child belongs according to his/her weight status (underweight, healthy weight, overweight, or obese).

When to See a Doctor

For more information on how to determine if your teen/child has a healthy weight, consult your doctor. Seek medical advice if you are concerned that he/she is overweight or underweight. You must also see your doctor if you suspect that your child has an eating disorder or if he/she has a significant delay in development (if puberty has not started by the age of 14).

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