Short Men Viewed in Negative
They may be smarter, stronger, and funnier than their peers,
but short men have a weaker self-image than tall men, and are
viewed in a more negative light by women, according to a new
book. Those are among the findings of a study by Henry Biller, a
psychology professor at the University of Rhode Island, and
Leslie Martel, a consulting psychologist in Connecticut. The
study is included in their book, " S t a t u r e and S t i g m a
: The Biopsychosocial Development of Short Males," published
this year. "In the United States. . .we value not how you look,
but what talent or ability you have," Biller said. "That's nice
as a philosophy, and I think we should strive for it," he said.
However, to assume "that one's body has nothing to do with the
kind of success a person has is an illusion."
Biller ("5 feet 7 inches") and Martel ("5 feet 5 inches,")
questioned 120 male students at URI, Yale and the University of
Connecticut at Storrs from 1982 to 1984. The men were white, 17
to 22, mostly unmarried and had no health problems or physical
defects. They were divided into three categories: short (5 feet
2 to 5 feet 5), average (5 feet 8 to 5 feet 10) and tall (6 feet
to 6 feet 4 inches). Biller says the heights in between were not
included so that the categories would be clear cut. The man of 5
feet 6 or 5 feet 7 is in "somewhat of a gray area," he said.
"Our impression is, if you're a male who's 5 feet 6 or 5 feet 7,
you have the problems of feeling short, but you're also probably
going to be taller than half the women you typically encounter."
As for the number left out on the upside - 5 feet 11 - Biller
said, "Most people who are 5 feet 11 consider themselves as
somewhat in the average range, or almost tall." In the study,
the men were asked if they thought their height helped or
hindered them socially; what their ideal height was; whether
they felt comfortable standing in certain situations, such as in
front of a group of classmates, and how important height was in
finding a spouse. Researchers also interviewed in depth 20 short
students. The results showed that short students were more
dependent on others for guidance and direction, and more
concerned with how others see them. "Short males have a less
favorable self-image than their taller counterparts," Biller
said. Most are unlikely to assume leadership roles, because that
means being assertive and taking risks, which is incompatible
with how they view themselves.
About 120 female classmates who were interviewed revealed
"strong and consistently negative attitudes" toward short men,
including beliefs that they are more passive, inhibited,
insecure and incomplete than taller men. Tall men also viewed
their shorter counterparts as "being significantly more
immature, conforming, incomplete, dirty and not capable," the
researchers found. All the men said they wanted to be taller.
Short students wanted to add an average of 6.1 inches to their
height. Those in the average group wanted to tack on 2.9 inches,
and the tall students sought an extra 1.1 inches. Martel said
the study, which drew on the work of other researchers, is the
first to examine short men's perceptions of themselves. How can
people overcome prejudices toward short men? Biller said that
parents, teachers and employers must be aware of their biases.
And, he said, mental health and medical professionals should
understand that the behavior of short males may stem from
feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Being short can
either "crush a person's ability to cope or enhance it in a
creative way and allow him to make a unique contribution to
society," Martel said. To compensate for their short stature,
some men build up machismo along with their bodies, Biller said.
Others develop their intellectual skills, while still others
rely on humor to distract people's attention from their height.
By COLLEEN FITZPATRICK
Scripps Howard News Service
From: THE FREDERICK POST
July 20th, 1983
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