Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Does size matter?

So maybe Randy Newman was wrong, and short people do have a reason to live. A research study appearing in this month's Pediatrics suggests that, contrary to the opinions of satirical songwriters and those who dispense growth hormones to too-little kids, there's nothing particularly wrong with being shorter than average. The report found that shorter students' peers were no more or less likely to describe their wee schoolmates as class clowns, bullies or bossy-boots based on their height. "Knowing a person's height by itself tells us virtually nothing about how well they're going to get along with their friends, how well they are accepted by their peer group," said the study's co-author, David E. Sandburg. And I could have told them that, having been the shortest kid in class from kindergarten right through high school. No one could miss that I was a shortie, and I got my fair share of teasing; but I had my fair share of success and popularity and peer acceptance, too.

The researchers hope that their findings will make doctors less quick to give growth hormones to kids who are just short, with no other medical problems, and I'm for that. But it's interesting that the study only measured how short kids' peers felt about them, and not how those kids felt about themselves. Whether their classmates perceive them as having a chip on their shoulder or a need to cut-up may not necessarily reflect their own level of self-confidence and coping skills. I personally think that being short added to my self-confidence and drive -- I knew I could measure up, and wanted everybody else to know it too. But I'm sure other shorties have taken a self-esteem blow from walking so low. I think there are ways to deal with that other than negating the height difference with hormones. But I don't think this kind of study is really going to convince much of anyone.

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