Short People Debunk New Study on Height
Short people are carded, teased, dateless, discounted, and some say, earn less.
Aug. 18, 2009— -- What Jeff remembers most about being short throughout school was the constant bullying and name-calling. In gym class, he was always the last one picked for the team.
Even as a 5-foot, 4-inch adult, the Ohio 40-year-old did not want his name used and still feels "awkward" in social situations.
"I feel embarrassed shopping for clothes, as I have to get my pants in the teen and young sections," he told ABCNews.com. "I still get carded for beer and cigarettes."
"The worst thing about being short is there is nothing I can do about it," said Jeff. "Fat people can diet and exercise, skinny people can eat and lift weights, ugly people can have plastic surgery. Being short is more akin to being disabled."
But a new University of Michigan study published this week in the journal Pediatrics suggests short people are not victimized at any higher rate than their taller peers -- at least not in the sixth grade, the period covered by the researchers.
Contradicting earlier studies, the study of 712 boys and girls of all heights found these children do just as well socially when it comes to "exclusion, social support, popularity, victimization, depressive symptoms, optimism or behavioral problems."
"I wish that were true," said Matt Campisi, chairman of the New York City-based National Organization of Short Statured Adults (NOSSA), who is 5 feet, 4 inches. "Most of the members would love that to be the reality, but unfortunately the feedback we receive from parents is the complete opposite."
And for scores of short people like Jeff who responded to an ABCNews.com inquiry, that study just doesn't measure up to their reality.
Growing up, those who are short face more than bad nicknames. Girls are treated like children in the work place and hardly taken seriously. Boys face snickers and empty dance cards.
And for many, those indignities follow them from childhood well into adulthood, as some Australian studies show they earn less than their taller co-workers.
The average American adult male is 5 feet, 9-1/2 inches tall and the average woman is 5 feet, 4 inches, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
NOSSA considers heights of 5 feet, 3 inches for men and 4 feet, 11 inches for women as short stature, based on guidelines from the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.
Campisi said his group receives numerous calls and letters from parents that their children are often targets of schoolyard bullying. Some are so distressed that they consider human growth hormones, which are both expensive and risky, to treat otherwise healthy children.
From adult men, the number one complaint about being short is finding a romantic partner. They say even short girls won't date them.
For women, it's the reaction to their height in the workplace.
"Women are looking for tall, dark and handsome," he told ABCNews.com. "When they are short, they are treated like they are children, getting patted on the head and dismissed."
Other experts were dubious about the study, especially because sixth graders are still growing and have an enormous variety in height.
"It is also likely that these kids are not very astute in understanding how others see them," said Judith A. Myers-Walls, associate professor of child development and family studies at Purdue University.
"As they get older in their teens they will get better at identifying what other people see as an asset or liability in their appearances."
But for Jeff, who is now married and successful as an electronics technician, memories of name-calling linger. In seventh grade, his "steady" of two years "dumped" him.
"Her excuse was she wanted a taller boyfriend," said Jeff, whose self-esteem is still wobbly. "She had grown taller over that time period, taller than me, that is."
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