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Health & Parenting

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Short Boys Get the Short Straw in School


"People buy books by the cover and they buy people by the cover," says Judith Waters, PhD, a consultant and professor of psychiatry at Farleigh-Dickinson University in northern New Jersey. "I saw a lawyer once having his hair made grey because the judges kept calling him 'Sonny.' It is funny, but when it comes down to discrimination by height, it's not funny" because you can't make yourself taller.

In the case of the boys in this study, Waters says it's possible the shorter ones may also have been the youngest among their age group -- and therefore not only physically less mature, but emotionally, as well. That could have set them up for learning problems and distracting conflict with classmates."The bigger boys will pick on the little ones, so some of this may be due to behavioral problems," she says. "Children and adults pick on fat children, so why not short children? Physical appearance is a factor for a lot of these incidents."

Short boys do not necessarily become short men, of course. But if they do, Waters says it's likely they'll encounter some discrimination in the workplace and in competition for a mate. She points to studies that show officers in the military tend to be taller than enlisted men, and the same pattern holds for the top jobs in industry. But, she adds, height isn't always a good predictor of success.

"It's a good thing Napoleon didn't read this study. There are lots of short men who have achieved a great deal," she says.

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