How men and women find a partner – the long and short of it

 

When it comes to choosing a mate, both sexes are heightist*.

Men choose shorter females as partners and women choose taller males. That should cause no surprise: men are, on average, taller than women. But evidence shows that partnerships such as that between the diminutive jazz pianist Jamie Cullum (5ft 4 in), and the model Sophie Dahl (5ft 11in), are even less common than statistics would suggest.

In the first study to examine how partner preferences translate into actual choices, researchers analysed results for 10,000 couples across the UK. They found that in more than nine out of 10 couples (92.5 per cent) the man was taller than the woman. On average, men were 5ft 10in tall and women 5ft 4½in, a difference of 5½in.

As some women are tall and some men short, it would be expected that the height relationship would be reversed in some partnerships. On average, if men and women were randomly sorted into couples, one in 200 pairings would involve a woman who is taller than the man.

Yet in practice, that is true of only one in 720 couples. Jamie Cullum and Sophie Dahl’s relationship is rare indeed.

Past research has suggested that taller men are more likely to be married and to have more children (except in societies affected by war). However being too tall, like being too short, reduces attractiveness.

Unless, that is, there are countervailing factors. When 35-year-old Brazilian lawyer Fabiana Flosi, 5ft 10in in her stockings, married Bernie Ecclestone (5ft 3in) last year, observers wondered what attracted her to the 81-year-old billionaire Formula One chief. Mr Ecclestone is used to the jibes, having previously been married to the 6ft 2in Brazilian model Slavica, the mother of his towering daughters.

There are other influences on partner choice, of course, including physical attractiveness, weight and educational level. Tall men also give women a licence to wear high heels.

However, though tallness is sought after in the male, women do not like partners who are too tall. In a sample of undergaduates selecting dates, the largest acceptable height difference for both sexes was a male partner 17 per cent taller than the female – equivalent to a height advantage of 7 ins for a 5ft 10 ins man.

The new analysis by Dutch researchers claims to be the first to demonstrate that this preference – that the man should be taller but not too tall – translates to actual choices. Couples in which the man was more than 10ins taller than the woman were rarer than expected by chance.

The findings, published in the journal Public Library of Science (PLoS) One, show that while the preferences of both sexes regarding the height of their partners were reflected in the actual choices they made, the effects were “generally modest”.

In some respects, however, the sexes are doomed to disappointment. Gert Stulp and colleagues from Groningen University, whose analysis is based on the Millennium Cohort Study of the parents of almost 19,000 babies born in the UK in 2000, say. “Men and women do not agree on their preferred partner height, as women prefer larger partner height differences than men. Mutual mate choice is thus likely to produce couples in which partner height preferences for either the male, or the female, or both are not optimally satisfied.”

*heightist: an act or attitude that seeks to discriminate against people on the basis of height

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week