Psychological and emotional development, intellectual capabilities, and body image in short normal children

Enrico Molinari, A. Sartorio, A. Ceccarelli, S. Marchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is well established that children with short stature frequently have problems in cognitive development, personality, self-esteem and social relations. This is partly due to the fact that many parents view them as more vulnerable than other children of normal stature and do not allow them to face the normal experiences that correspond to their actual age. The aim of the present study was to assess, through the administration of appropriate psychological tools, a series of psychological and cognitive characteristics [i.e. anxiety, depression, good adjustment, social functioning, feeling of guilt, interpersonal relationship, intelligence quotient (IQ)], as well as variables linked to development of body image, in a group of children suffering from normal growth variants [familial short stature (FSS), no. 10, 4 males/6 females; with constitutional growth delay (CGD), no. 4,4 males; height standard deviation score (HSDS) ranging between -2.4 and -1.9] and in a control group children of normal stature (HSDS between -0.1 and +0.1). Children with short stature significantly differed from normal statured controls as far as Colored Progressive Matrices (CPMs, centiles), IQ (IQ, obtained using the Goodenough test), "Good Adjustment" (Draw-a-Person index, DAP), "Feelings of Guilt" (DAP index), "Height" (as emerges from drawings of the body) are concerned. Significant relationships were found between the height of the subjects (in centiles) and cognitive skills, measured both using CPMs (r=0.408; p=0.017) and Draw-a-Man (DAM) (r=0.359; p=0.037) and between height and feelings of guilt (r=0.325; p=0.027), measured using DAP. CPM scores correlated positively with the "Good Adjustment" index of DAP (r=0.354; p=0.05) and negatively with Children's Depression Inventory (CDI) (r=-0.609; p=0.01), "School Anxiety" index (r=-0.427; p=0.05) and "Total Anxiety" index (r=-0.436; p=0.05) of the Anxiety Scale Questionnaire for the Age of Development, and with 2 indices of DAP, namely, "Feelings of Guilt" (r=-0.461; p=0.01) and "Interpersonal Relationships (Difficulty in Establishing)" (r=-0.455; p=0.01). A significant positive correlation was found between the height of the subject and both the measurement of the "Body of Drawing 3" (r=0.450, p=0.01) and the measurement of the "Body of Drawing 4" (r=0.461, p=0.01), as well as the with the "Total Height of Drawing 4" (r=0.464, p=0.01). Higher indices for anxiety, depression, feelings of guilt and difficulty in establishing interpersonal relationships and lower indices for good adjustment were found in children with CGD as compared to subjects with FSS or normal statured children. Although further additional studies on larger samples are needed to confirm these preliminary observations, the present study underlines the importance of psychological support also during the growth and development in short normal children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-328
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Endocrinological Investigation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • Body image
  • Emotional development
  • Human figure drawings
  • Intellectual capabilities
  • Short stature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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