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Height Is Key When Coupling Up, Study Finds

Tall woman, much shorter man happens less frequently than previously thought

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 16 (HealthDay News) -- People's preferences for a partner's height appear to play a major role in selecting a mate, according to a new study.

Based on the average heights of men and women in Western nations, two of every 100 couples should include a woman who is much taller than her male partner. But the actual frequency of such couples is much lower, Gert Stulp and colleagues at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands reported online Jan. 16 in the journal PLoS One.

Previous studies have found that men generally prefer women who are shorter than they are, and women tend to prefer men who are taller, the study authors noted. However, tall men and short women seem to prefer larger height differences with their partner, while tall women and short men prefer smaller height differences.

In the previous research, these trends were analyzed only in terms of people's preferences or expectations, according to background information in a journal news release. In this new study, Stulp's team examined how these preferences actually affected their choice in partners.

The analysis of more than 10,000 couples in the United Kingdom found that these trends were evident, and that the difference in height between men and women in the couples tended to be less than 8 inches.

However, the patterns seen in these couples were not as frequent as expected based on people's preferences from previous research.

So, "while preferences for partner height generally translate into actual pairing, they do so only modestly," the study authors concluded.

More information

HelpGuide.org has more about relationships.


SOURCE: PLoS One, news release, Jan. 16, 2013

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