Objectives: To measure the prevalence of behavioral and learning problems among children with short stature and to assess the effect of growth hormone (GH) treatment on such problems.
Study design: A total of 195 children with short stature (age range 5 to 16 years, mean age 11.2 years) were tested for intelligence, academic achievement, social competence, and behavior problems before beginning GH therapy and yearly during 3 years of treatment. Children were classified as having growth hormone deficiency (GHD) when GH responses to provocative stimuli were <10 ng/mL (n = 109) and as having idiopathic short stature (ISS) when >10 ng/mL (n = 86). A normal-statured matched comparison group was tested at the baseline only.
Results: Seventy-two children in the GHD group and 59 children in the ISS group completed 3 years of GH therapy and psychometric testing. Mean IQs of the children with short stature were near average. IQs and achievement scores did not change with GH therapy. Child Behavior Checklist scores for total behavior problems were higher (P < .001) in the children with short stature than in the normal-statured children. After 3 years of GH therapy these scores were improved in patients with GHD (P < .001) and ISS (P < .003). Also, there was improvement in the scores of children in the GHD group in the internalizing subscales (withdrawn: P < .007; somatic complications, P < .001; anxious/depressed, P < .001) and on the 3 components of the ungrouped subscales (attention, social problems, and thought problems, each P = .001). Larger effects were observed in the GHD group than in the ISS group.
Conclusions: Many referred children with short stature have problems in behavior, some of which ameliorate during treatment with GH.