Maternal and Child Health Bureau Training Module: Adolescent Physical Development



The second decade of life, from 10 to 20 years of age, coincides with the process of adolescence and is marked by numerous physical changes. Growth and development that occurs during puberty affects all body organs and systems. "Growing" in both weight and stature (height) is a characteristic feature of this stage of life, and the pubertal "growth spurt" is the only post-natal period in which there is normally an acceleration in the increase of both stature and weight. The growth spurt in stature ("peak height velocity") has an onset and duration that is highly variable from individual to individual, and is affected by genetic, gender and nutritional influences. It is followed by a rapid decrease in the rate at which stature increases as the final adult height is approached. The growth spurt in weight is dependent on the balance between energy (caloric) intake and output. If energy intake is significantly less than output, underweight results; if energy intake significantly exceeds output, overweight or obesity can result. This module addresses practical uses and limitations of the new CDC growth charts applied to adolescents. Three cases are presented to illustrate key points.


Upon completion of this module, you should be able to:

Describe three features of normal growth curves during adolescent development

List two differences between "early" and "late" developers in puberty

Apply data from growth charts to appropriately screen, assess and monitor adolescents

Table of Contents for this Module and Printable Version of this Module

Estimated Time Needed to Complete the Module

To read through text: 40 minutes

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