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Stunting: What Can Cause Children To Have Stunted Growth?

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Hello Sehat · Updated Jun 20, 2022

    Stunting: What Can Cause Children To Have Stunted Growth?

    Both weight and height are the determinants of a child’s growth and development. The reason is that the child’s height is a factor that marks growth stunting and is a marker of whether the child’s has sufficient nutrition or not. But what is stunting and what causes it?

    What Is Stunting?


    Stunting is a condition characterized when a child’s length or height is less than his age. Simply put, stunting is a condition in which children experience growth disorders, causing their bodies to be shorter than their peers. And this is usually caused by nutritional deficiencies.

    Many do not know that short children are a sign of chronic nutritional problems in the growth of the little one’s body. However, it should be important to remember that children who are short are not necessarily stunted.

    Children fall into the stunting category when their length or height for age shows a number below -2 standard deviations (SD). If children aged 2 or under experience this, it is important to do something about it as soon as possible.

    Assessment of nutritional status with a standard deviation usually uses a child growth chart (GPA) from WHO.

    Short stature in children who are below normal standards is the result of malnutrition that has lasted for a long time.

    This then hampers the growth of the child’s height, resulting in him being classified as stunted.

    However, children with short bodies do not necessarily experience stunting. This condition only occurs when the child’s daily nutritional intake is lacking, which affects the development of his height.

    What Causes Stunting in Children?


    This health problem is the result of various factors that occurred in the past. These factors include poor nutritional intake, repeated infections with infectious diseases and even parasitic infestations, premature birth, and low birth weight or if a child has an existing serious chronic illness, like congenital heart disease.

    This condition of inadequate nutritional intake of children usually does not only occur after he is born, but can begin when he is still in the womb.

    Below are two main points that are factors that cause stunting in children.

    1. Lack of Nutrition During Pregnancy

    According to the World Health Organization or WHO, about 20% of stunting events have occurred while the baby is still in the womb.

    This happens when the mother is unable to eat nutritious food during pregnancy, so the fetus does not get the adequate nutrients that it needs to develop fully.

    Eventually, the baby’s growth in the womb slows down, and this continues even after birth. Therefore, it is important to meet various important nutrients during pregnancy .

    2. Inadequate Nutrition

    In addition, this condition can also occur due to inadequate food for toddlers under the age of 2 years, such as inappropriate breastfeeding positions , not being given exclusive breastfeeding , to poor quality complementary foods.

    Many theories state that lack of food intake can also be one of the main factors causing stunting. In particular, it is the lack of foods containing protein and minerals (zinc and iron) when children are still toddlers.

    Stunting can start as early as when the child is 3 months old. This developmental process gradually begins to slow down when the child is 3 years old.

    After that, a child might still visibly continue to grow, albeit at a slower pace compared to their peers.

    Additionally, there is a slight difference in how children aged 2-3 and children older than 3 years develop.

    In children aged under 2-3 years, the low measurement of the height for age chart can describe the ongoing stunting process. Meanwhile, in children older than that, this condition indicates that the child’s growth failure has indeed occurred.

    Learn more about Child Health here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Hello Sehat · Updated Jun 20, 2022

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