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Origin of growing pains
Words nearby growing pains
What does growing pains mean?
Originally a reference to the physical pains many children experience when going through a growth spurt, growing pains has come to refer to the hardships experienced at the early stages of some endeavor.
The term is frequently used to describe the struggles found in transitioning from an adolescent to an adult, from an amateur to a professional, or the creation or expansion of a business.
How is growing pains pronounced?
[ groh-ing peynz ]
Where does growing pains come from?
These growing pains were described in 1823 by French physician Marcel Duchamp, who came up with it based on his observation that these pains tended to occur during a period of dramatic growth in a child. While growing pains are in fact usually experienced by young children, Duchamp’s growth-based explanation has been disproven.
No one really knows exactly what causes growing pains, but according to pediatrician Joshua Burns of the University of Sydney in 2016, recent research suggests that they may be caused by “altered pain threshold, decreased bone strength, excess flexibility known as joint hypermobility, greater body weight, parental history of arthritis or family history of growing pains.”
While the cause of growing pains remains a mystery, the term has not only stuck, but also, er, grown to take on a metaphorical sense that refers to struggles found in a period of growth in any part of life.
The term has often appeared in popular culture, such as in the late 1980s–90s ABC sitcom Growing Pains, which centered around the trials and tribulations of the Seaver family and their life on Long Island, New York. The show ran for an impressive seven seasons and helped launch the career of Leonardo DiCaprio.
More recently, the term was used by Canadian singer-songwriter Alessia Cara in her 2018 single titled—yep, you guessed it—“Growing Pains.” In an interview with Rolling Stone’s Brittany Spanos that year, Cara said the song was inspired by the “huge growing pain” she’s experienced in finding herself amid her newfound success in the music industry.
How is growing pains used in real life?
Outside of some parents explaining to their children that their aches are growing pains, metaphorical use of growing pains—for the struggles or challenges of someone of something coming of age—can be found in a wide variety of areas online, print, and good, old-fashioned everyday speech.
More examples of growing pains:
“Alison van Diggelen, herself an early adopter, explores the growing pains of building an electric car charging network and the fledgling new industry rising up to meet the challenge.”
—KQED, Law.com, November 2012
“If you’re going through the mud, you’re learning something crucial. You are improving. You are becoming someone different. Hallelujah for that. Hallelujah for the thought of becoming better versions of ourselves in the midst of daily growing pains.”
—@hannahbrencher, July 2018
This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.
Example sentences from the Web for growing pains
In the intervals of harkening to my growing-pains I was, of course, still a little girl.The Promised Land|Mary Antin
The American Army's respect for the French began to have growing-pains.Our Army at the Front|Heywood Broun
Her face wore a brooding, puzzled look, ‘Poor little soul, she is feeling her growing-pains!’Marm Lisa|Kate Douglas Wiggin
So much for the race, in the gripe of growing-pains; but what of the nurses?Majesty|Louis Couperus
His legs are still racked with growing-pains, but he has a good time, nevertheless.The Facts Concerning The Recent Carnival Of Crime In Connecticut|Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
British Dictionary definitions for growing pains
Medical definitions for growing pains
Idioms and Phrases with growing pains
Problems that arise in beginning or enlarging an enterprise, as in The company is undergoing growing pains but should be viable by next year. This expression, which dates from the late 1800s, originally referred to the joint and limb aches experienced by youngsters who are growing rapidly. By about 1900 it was being used figuratively.