Why do women tend to prefer tall men?

Posted by | August 17, 2014 | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

A recent study showed that women prefer to marry men who are 8 inches (!) taller than they are. Why do women prefer tall men?

One theory is that for evolutionary reasons women unconsciously prefer tall men because these men tend to be more successful in physical altercations with other men. That theory would apply to humans a dominance perspective similar to that experts hold regarding gorillas and many other animals. The idea, from evolutionary psychology, is this:  Modern women tend to have genes that propel them, consciously or not, to favor tall men.  That occurs because women in the past who had this preference tended more than other women to produce children who survived to reproduce.  Were the tall men of yesteryear able to obtain more food?  Able to better protect a woman and children? Could height have indicated health and intellect?  We know that in children proper nutrition makes a big difference for height, health, and intellectual development. The evidence is clear in poor countries where some children come close to starving.

Another possibility is that women favor tallness in men for psychosocial reasons. Looking up to someone literally may translate in the unconscious brain to looking up person figuratively. Also, tall men may give women a sense of being protected by a more powerful person. Studies show that tall men are seen as leaders and are elected to office more often than shorter men who run against them. I would guess that as a group they make more money (even putting aside players in the National Basketball Association!).

Male height, of course, is only one factor in romantic preferences of women. Among other factors, being loving ought to play a role. Some women marry men who are the same height or shorter. Not many women marry a man who is 8 inches (!) taller, in part because on average men are only about 5 inches (no exclamation mark) taller than women and in part because many other factors are important. Also, some women do not care about a man’s height.

Tall men, by the way, tend to favor tall women. Not as tall the man, but tall. To be precise, men in a study favored women 3 inches shorter on average. The desire for a partner who is similar is part of assortative mating — individuals mating with someone who has a similar genotype or phenotype.

Australia, by the way, is a good place to find tall romantic partners — it has the second tallest people of any nation! The tallest nation? The Netherlands.

Where does this height-prefernce situation leave short men? For some, it may leave them hustling to show their personal advantages aside from height — trying to show actual leadership, power, strength, etc. Some tall men pursue these goals too. For some short men, the situation may lead them to marry short women.

What would you consider the ideal height for your romantic partner? How does that compare to your height? My answer for preference: 5 feet, 7 inches to 6 feet, 2 inches. I am 6 feet, 2 inches.

John Malouff, PhD, JD, Associate Professor of Psychology


Photo by Amir Babaei on Unsplash







  • Caity says:

    Hi John,

    I haven’t really thought about the ideal height for my romantic partner, but now that I think about it, all of my past romantic interests have been my height or taller. I’m 5 feet, 7 inches, so I guess my ideal romantic partner would be between 5 feet, 7 inches and about 6 feet, 2 inches.


  • jmalouff says:

    Hi Caity. That is a popular height range!

  • Elizabeth Reed says:

    Protected by a more powerful person. And, of course, it must tap into father-figure associations. Tall, thin, men are more intelligent, sensitive, artistic, . .less likely to hunt animals, in this century, I have observed, as well as that body-type theory of meso-morph, etc. The hunting thing is my own inference,but I stand by it. Men with hunting images on their sites can go to h*ll.

  • Anonymous says:

    Did you write this out of vanity? Why do you need to announce that women prefer you, and men like you?

  • jmalouff says:

    I don’t think so. I am only a few inches taller than average for a man. My height has benefitted in sports and in seeing over people in a crowd. I have never noticed any social benefit, although research findings suggest it may occur.

  • Freida says:

    I am a 5’8” woman, slender and active. I like a taller man than me for an intimate partner. I have been with shorter men and I feel very strange – like he could be my child or son. I have heard some very tall men say they feel uncomfortable with much shorter women – they feel she is small enough to be their child. This is like the Oedipal complex. Some people just feel that way. Uncomfortable.

    I don’t know why taller men like women who are not as tall as them, but I am glad if they do. I have dated many men who do not care about my height. Some think I’m too slim. Personally, it is hard enough to get through all the obstacles of finding the right partner on any level. I follow through with a man I feel physically comfortable being around, who feels comfortable being around me. I think a lot of women like the feeling of being “protected” and a lot of men like to feel they are physically dominant to the woman and can protect her.

    That said, all men have the ability to be manly (or not) regardless of their height. It is just a matter of personal comfort for each individual in terms of the intimate physical relationship.

    Personally, if I were not so tall I feel I’d find a lot more men that I am comfortable with physically. That is just my nature and so I go with that. I have one girlfriend who is 6’ tall and stronger than most men she meets. She has also expressed to me that she likes a man at least as tall and strong as she is. That’s what she feels comfortable with. We’re talking about having an intimate physical relationship. This is not a value judgement about a person’s “womanhood” or “manhood”. Some guys say I’m too skinny for them. Glad to know! Keep it moving and I’ll pick one who finds my slender size attractive. I feel like just as much of a woman as another who is more curvy and endowed. I don’t feel like less of a woman. I just know that I am not every man’s cup of tea.

    There are no hard and fast rules of attraction. I do know many couples where the man is not as tall as the woman and they are very happily married for many years.

    This author is writing about the general comfort zone of the large portion of people out there dating. It’s not a hard and fast “rule”.

    Don’t get too worked up Anonymous. As my Grandmother used to say “for every pot there is a lid”.

  • jmalouff says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and observations!

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