Sex differences in the relationship of height to children's actual and attributed social and cognitive competencies

Nancy Eisenberg, Karlsson Roth, Karyl A. Bryniarski, Edward Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


In three studies, the relationship of children's height to both (a) adults' attributions regarding the children and (b) preschoolers' social and cognitive competencies were examined. Sex differences were consistent with stereotypic conceptions. In the first two studies, mothers of preschool children rated photographs of toddlers varying in height on a variety of social and cognitive abilities. The mothers also assigned punishment to the children for hypothetical transgressions. In Experiment 1, mothers rated the large boys as more competent than the average-sized and small boys (even when effects of mothers' perceptions of the children's ages were covaried). In Experiment 2, involving female stimuli, mothers rated small girls as being less able (especially less independent) than average-sized or tall girls. While the effect of height on mothers' attributions was still evident when the effects of perceived age of the children were covaried, the pattern of results was less clear. Mothers assigned more punishment to tall girls (but not tall boys) than to small girls regardless of perceptions of age. In Experiment 3, height was associated with boys', but not girls', competence on tasks of logical ability and boys' sociometric nominations of whom they prefer to play with (significant for girls, marginally significant for boys). Height was not highly correlated with peers' perceptions of competence. The implications of the research for the socialization process are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)719-734
Number of pages16
JournalSex Roles
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Oct 1 1984

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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