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TUESDAY, Feb. 11, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A new study confirms there is an unspoken rule among women: Don't settle for a short man.
The researchers first analyzed data from online dating ads posted by about 450 men and 470 women across the United States. The men had an average age of 36 and an average height of 5 feet, 8 inches, while the women had an average age of 35 and an average height of 5 feet, 4 inches.
Although 13.5 percent of men wanted to date only shorter women, 49 percent of women wanted to date only taller men.
The researchers then conducted an online survey of 54 men (with an average height of 5 feet, 9 inches) and 131 women (average height 5 feet, 4 inches) at a U.S. university. They found that 37 percent of the men wanted to date only women shorter than them, while 55 percent of the women wanted to date only men taller than them.
Feeling protected and feminine were the main reasons women gave for preferring taller men, according to the study, which was published online recently in the Journal of Family Issues.
"As the girl, I like to feel delicate and secure at the same time," said one woman in the study. "Something just feels weird in thinking about looking down into my man's eyes. There is also something to be said about being able to wear shoes with high heels and still be shorter. I also want to be able to hug him with my arms reaching up and around his neck."
The researchers said gender stereotypes might explain things.
"Evolutionary psychology theory argues that similarity is overwhelmingly the rule in human mating," study co-author Michael Emerson, a professor of sociology and co-director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, said in a university news release. "However, our study suggests that for physical features such as height, similarity is not the dominant rule, especially with females."
The height preferences revealed in the study are due to gender stereotypes and traditional societal expectations, said study author George Yancey, a professor of sociology at the University of North Texas.
"The masculine ability to offer physical protection is clearly connected to the gender stereotype of men as protectors," Yancey said in the news release. "And in a society that encourages men to be dominant and women to be submissive, having the image of tall men hovering over short women reinforces this value."
Psychology Today has more information on why women prefer tall men.
SOURCE: Rice University, news release, Feb. 10, 2014