Limited information is available on the educational and behavioral functioning of short children. Through 27 participating medical centers, we administered a battery of psychologic tests to 166 children referred for growth hormone (GH) treatment (5 to 16 years) who were below the third percentile for height (mean height = –2.7 SD). The sample consisted of 86 children with isolated growth-hormone deficiency (GHD) and 80 children with idiopathic short stature (ISS). Despite average intelligence, absence of significant family dysfunction, and advantaged social background, a large number of children had academic underachievement. Both groups showed significant discrepancy (p < .01) between IQ and achievement scores in reading (6%), spelling (10%), and arithmetic (13%) and a higher-than-expected rate of behavior problems (GHD, 12%, p < .0001; ISS, 10%, p < .0001). Behavior problems included elevated rates of internalizing behavior (e.g., anxiety, somatic complaints) and externalizing behavior (e.g., impulsive, distractible, attention-seeking). Social competence was reduced in school-related activities for GHD patients (6%, p < .03).
The high frequency of underachievement, behavior problems, and reduced social competency in these children suggests that short stature itself may predispose them to some of their difficulties. Alternately, parents of short, underachieving children may be more likely to seek help. In addition, some problems may be caused by factors related to specific diagnoses.
J Dev Behav Pediatr 14:1-6, 1994