North Texas Daily

Height still a major factor when choosing a romantic partner

Height still a major factor when choosing a romantic partner

Height still a major factor when choosing a romantic partner
March 03
09:30 2014

Schyler Butler // Intern Writer

Romantic relationships are based on a number of factors: compatibility, physical attraction and, according to a new study from the University of North Texas and Rice University, height.

The study, “Does Height Matter? An Examination of Height Preferences in Romantic Coupling,” demonstrates the importance placed on height when choosing a romantic partner. The study concludes that height preference, while important to both genders, is more important to women.

“Like so much of life, we do things and we have preferences that we are not truly aware of,” said Michael Emerson, sociology professor at Rice and co-author of the study.

UNT sociology professor George Yancey is the lead author of the study. He and Emerson became curious about height preferences after discussing the popularity of online dating.

“We went online to learn more about it and noticed how many people put in specific requirements for height,” Emerson said. “One thing led to another, and before we knew it, we were conducting a full-blown study.”

The study was split into two parts. The first used data compiled from the Yahoo! personal dating advertisements of 455 men (average age of 36) and 470 women (average age of 35) throughout the U.S. The men’s height averaged 5 feet 8 inches and women averaged out at 5 feet 4 inches.

Results showed that 13.5 percent of the men only wanted to date women shorter than they were while 48.9 percent of the women preferred to date a taller man.

Part two of the study sampled college students from a large university. 54 men and 131 women were asked to answer several open-ended questions on an online questionnaire.

The results of the second study mimicked those of the first: 55 percent of the women preferred men taller than themselves while 37 percent of the men preferred to date a shorter woman.

“We were surprised that, for college-aged students in the age of gender equality, the height of potential partners continued to matter for so many, specifically for so many females,” Emerson said. “Often, [they gave us] very stereotypical gender role reasons for why it mattered.”

The women said that they preferred taller men because they felt more protected and feminine in their presence.

“[Our results] suggest that part of our notion of physical attraction is tied to our ideas about men and women,” Yancey said. “Those ideas have been shaped to some degree by the patriarchal nature of our society.”

Kinesiology and business junior Michael Rivera is 5 feet 6 inches and his girlfriend, psychology senior Bianca Lane, stands at 5 feet. Both agree that other factors, such as their humor, played a bigger role than height in their decision to date.

“I thought about [his height], but although he is short, he isn’t shorter than me,” Lane said.

Emerson admits that not enough research exists in regards to height preferences, but he nevertheless remains fascinated by the results.

He said that though society is making substantial, measurable progress in male-female equality, stereotypical height preferences remain.

“Clearly, when people give reasons such as they want to date a taller man so they can wear high heels or so they don’t ‘look funny’ as a couple, they are expressing a social expectation,” he said. “And when they say things like ‘for protection’ or ‘for security’ they are expressing a mix of biology and socialization.”

Yancey and Emerson’s study can be found at the following link here. Access is free for students, faculty and staff with a UNT ID.

Feature photo: Taylor Sheriff and Grant Kreizenbeck. According to new research from Rice University and the University of North Texas, the height of a potential partner matters more to women than men causing resulting in certain emotional problems. Photo illustration by Trevor Garza / Intern Photographer 

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