In sixth grade, I was the tallest in my class but now I’m one of the shortest. Why?

Last updated on August 4, 2020


Hi! I’m a 15 year old male. I have finished puberty because I have a hairy chest, hairy stomach and I have been shaving my top lip, my chin, and my sideburns for two years. My voice broke three years ago. I’m worried because I am 169 cm (5′ 6″) tall, and I haven’t grown a millimeter in nine months! I have been a size 9-10 shoe size since I was 12. When I was in year 6 (sixth grade) I was the tallest in my school and now I’m one of the shorties. All my friends are tall, but they aren’t as hairy as me. Why?


There always seems to be a give and take in life. You developed early and have reached a full adult body long before other boys your age. But it also means you started at a shorter stature when you began to grow. Before puberty everyone grows at a steady rate. At stage three of development for boys that rate suddenly doubles or more for half a year or more, slows down for about a year, and then stops. You were taller than your friends for a while solely because you had your growth spurt first. Now they are having their growth spurts and since they started at taller point, many of them will end up taller than you.

On the other end of the scale, boys who start puberty later than most tend to be slim. This is because the body rushes to complete adolescence and not as much time is spent in the shoulders getting broader.

As you describe yourself, you have definitely reached stage five in Tanner’s Stages of Development. It means your growth is finished. A doctor can verify it by taking an x-ray of your wrist bone, but as you suspect, he would only find that the growth plates (the places where the bones grow) are sealed off.

As far as hairiness, the amount of hair a person has is strongly determined by their genes. Those of your friends who have genes that will make them similarly as hairy as you will eventually catch up to you. If they didn’t start their growth spurt until 14, it they would develop much body hair until somewhere around 18.

As hard as it may seem, you need to find contentment with what you have and not spend time wishing for what you don’t have. “And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” (Luke 12:25). You will find there are things where your shorter stature will be an advantage. But also consider this: since you are done growing, it means you can develop significant muscles that your friends can’t for several more years. So find sports where that muscle can be put to advantage, like mountain climbing, soccer, swimming, or weight-lifting.


Thank you so much. I”m really happy with your response. But it is a bit of a bummer that I have stopped growing because I play volleyball. Do you think I should go and see a doctor about getting an x-ray? 


You can if it is really bothering you, but I would tell you up front that the doctor isn’t going to tell you anything you don’t already know. There is a good possibility that he will take a look at you and tell you that it isn’t worth doing an x-ray. But if spending the money for professional confirmation makes you feel better, it will have to be up to you and your parents.

While you won’t have the reach of taller volleyball players, you can still jump — and probably higher than others expect. Then, too, someone has to get the ball that those taller players are always missing (big grin).