Dad tends to be taller than mum, study finds

28 January 2013

Height differences between MCS parents suggest women may prefer their men to be taller than them – but not too much taller – according to a new study from Groningen University.

Researchers at Groningen University in the Netherlands analysed data from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), which follows almost 19,000 children born in the UK in 2000-01. They found that among the parents of the MCS children, the man was taller than the woman in more than 9 out of 10 heterosexual couples. The average height difference between men and women was approximately 14 cm.

Couples where the man was much taller than the woman (over 25 cm) were rarer than expected, suggesting that women don’t like their partners to be too much taller than them.

However both men and women’s preferences depended on their own height. Taller women and shorter men were more likely to be in relationships when the man was only slightly shorter. In contrast, shorter women and taller men were more often in relationships when the height difference was relatively large.

A previous study of British and American couples in 1980 found that only one in 720 women were taller than their partners. Even though men are on average taller than women, the odds should be higher, suggesting height preference is an important factor when people choose a partner.

Read the full paper

Are human mating preferences with respect to height reflected in actual pairings?’ by Gert Stulp, Abraham P. Buunk, Thomas V. Pollet, Daniel Nettle and Simon Verhulst was published in the journal Public Library of Science One in January 2013.

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