Shorter women are more likely to have long-term relationships with men, and more likely to have children, according to a study of 10,000 people born in the UK in 1958.
The average height for a British woman is 1.62 metres (5 feet, 4 inches). But those who were between 1.51 and 1.58 metres were most likely to be married and to have children by the age of 42. This relationship held true even after accounting for social class.
The study also found that women prefer men who are taller than average. A man of 1.83 metres (6 feet exactly) was more likely to have a partner and children than a man standing at the average height of 1.77 metres (5 feet, 10 inches).
But why men should prefer smaller women is unclear, says Daniel Nettle of the Open University, who led the research. “There is no evidence that shorter women conceive more quickly or are more fertile in a contemporary population,” he says. In fact, previous studies have found that smaller women are more likely to die in childbirth.
“But we know that men are drawn to things that in our evolutionary past would have been a cue for fertility. And in one sense tallness is a negative cue – tall women reach puberty later and probably their secondary sexual characteristics develop somewhat later,” he says.
Nettle thinks the finding that men prefer mates who are smaller than average, but women prefer the opposite, also suggests the height disparity between the sexes is likely to continue.
The genetics of height is poorly understood, he stresses. “Oddly enough, we know that the heights of mother and son and of father and daughter correlate. So it would seem that a woman choosing a tall husband is also choosing tall daughters.”
However, Nettle says this choice must also select a factor linked to the sex of the child, which maintains the difference in height between men and women. Read More>>