This study presents longitudinal data on physical growth
pattern and sexual maturity in 6829 children (3517 boys and
3312 girls) from rural and urban slum areas, covering the
age groups of 10 to 16 years followed up at six Monthly intervals.
Physical growth parameters studied included height, weight,
chest circumference, mid-arm circumference, bi-acromial and
bi-cristal diameters. Observations on earlier physical growth
of these children (at 5-7 years of age) were also available,
which enabled the linking of growth during adolescence to
earlier growth status.
Children from rural areas, boys as well as girls were shorter
and weighed less compared to children from urban slum areas.
The average height of girls from rural areas in this study
was similar to that of boys at ages 13.5 to 14.5 years. At
all other age points, the height of girls was less than boys.
In the urban slums, girls were taller than boys especially
between the ages of 11 to 14 years. In urban slums as well
as rural areas, adolescent girls had higher body weight than
boys at 1 to 12 years of age. The children in this study were
categorized into four nutritional groups using weight for
age (Gomez classification) at 5-7 years of age. Grade II and
grade III malnutrition were combined as there were very few
children in grade III malnutrition. Physical growth during
adolescence was studied in these three nutritional groups.
The normal children, boys as well as girls from all centres
had higher weight and height throughout adolescence in comparison
to children who had grade I and grade II or III malnutrition.
The children were about 16 years of age at the time of completion
of this study and hence, all had not attained full maturity.
Boys were observed for appearance of pubic hair, axillary
hair, facial hair, change of voice and genitalia development
and girls for appearance of pubic hair, axillary hair, onset
of menarche and breast development. Large variations from
centre to centre were observed in age at appearance of sexual
characteristics and the order in which these appeared. Pubic
hair was the first sexual characteristic to appear in majority
of the boys as well as girls in all the centres. The mean
age at stage II, III and IV of genitalia development in boys
varied from 10.7 to 12.9 years, 11.7 to 13.7 years and 13.8
to 14.3 years respectively. The mean age at stage II, III
and IV of breast development in girls varied between 11.3
to 12.3 years, 12.3 to 13.2 years and 13.3 to 14.1 years respectively.
The percentage of girls who had attained menarche by the age
of 15 years; ranged from 16.9 to 70.1 per cent between centres.
The children in whom the sexual characteristics had appeared
earlier than others, had higher mean body weight and height
as compared to those of children at the same age points. Thus
the study shows early childhood nutritional status has an
influence on subsequent growth and development.