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Failure of infants, children, and adolescents to grow and develop normally. It’s a term used until a specific diagnosis can be established.

Sex or Age most Affected

Young children (1 to 5 years)

Signs & Symptoms

  • Height, weight and head circumferences do not progress normally, as measured on doctors’ growth charts.
  • Physical skills are often slow to develop. Such skills include
  • Turning over in bed.
  • Sitting.
  • Standing and walking.
  • Mental and social skills are often delayed. These skills include
  • Talking.
  • Social interaction.
  • Self-feeding.
  • Toilet training.

Normal growth and development vary widely. The RATE OF CHANGE – as measured at regular medical checkups – is more significant.


  • Malnutrition.
  • Parental inexperience.
  • A negative emotional environment (neglect, abuse or rejection).
  • Chronic disease, such as kidney failure or chronic infection.
  • Genetic disorders, such as Down’s Syndrome or cystic fibrosis.
  • Endocrine diseases, including disorders of the thyroid, pituitary, adrenal, pancreas and sexual glands.


  • Look out for parenting classes, if available. Else post your specific queries to our panel
  • Take your child regularly to the doctor for “well-baby” checkups.

Risk Increases With

  • Poverty.
  • Parents who were raised in a negative emotional environment or are poorly educated.
  • Crowded or unsanitary living conditions.


  • Psychotherapy or counseling, if either of the parents has emotional problems that prevent a healthy relationship with the child.
  • Hospitalization (short-term), if complicated diagnostic procedures are necessary or food intake must be verified.

Diagnostic Measures

  • Observation of symptoms.
  • Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
  • Repeated measurements of height, weight, head and chest circumference.
  • Psychological tests, such as the Denver Developmental test, which measures growth and
  • Laboratory blood tests, including hormone studies.
  • X-rays of the hands, which provide a good measure of bone age/ body growth.

Possible Complications

Permanent mental, emotional or physical disability.

Probable Outcomes

  • If failure to thrive is caused by parental inexperience or psychological problems, recovery is possible with education and counseling for the parents.
  • If failure to thrive is caused by an underlying physical illness or disorder, including malnutrition, recovery depends on whether and how fast the condition can be corrected.


General Measures

  • Visit more often.
  • Read books and pamphlets on child rearing.
  • Provide as much love and support as possible for your child. Examine your feelings and behaviour toward your child. If you don’t think they are what they should be, arrange for psychological counselinG


If an underlying disorder is causing failure to thrive, your doctor may prescribe medication to treat the condition.


  • Provide your child with an adequate, well-balanced diet.
  • If malnutrition is causing failure to thrive, your doctor may prescribe special diets.

Contact your Doctor

  • You are concerned that your child is not developing properly.
  • Trust your instincts–obtain a second doctor’s opinion, if necessary.