Can Sons Be Shorter Than Their Mothers? (Explained)


As a general rule, men typically tend to be taller than women—but how large of a role does genetics play in that outcome? Is a son always going to be taller than his mother just because he is a man, or can sons end up being shorter than their mother?

While it is not very common, sons can be shorter than their mothers. This could happen if the mother is taller than the father and most of the father’s family is short. A son can also be shorter than his mother if there is a genetic disorder or health problems, especially during the pregnancy.

Children’s heights can be determined by a number of different factors. As a teacher for many years, these are questions I fielded from students of many age groups. You are not alone in wondering about issues surrounding how tall sons can be. Throughout this article, we will dig into those factors and answer some other commons questions regarding this topic, with a particular focus on sons and mothers. 

Can Sons Be Shorter Than Their Mothers?

This is a photo showing my twin sons shorter than me.

While it may seem strange, it is absolutely possible for a sons to be shorter than their mothers. Height in humans is known to be 70% genetic and 30% environmental. Even with this percentage delineation, there are going to be outliers, too.

Outlier: a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample (Source: Merriam-Webster)

Genetics is always a fascinating subject to dive into. It is like a puzzle with codes and seemingly endless results. For parents, it can help give them an idea of what their children will look like someday.

So, if the mother is much taller than the father and most of the father’s family is on the short side, then a son can be shorter than his mother. It is still a little unlikely since the son will also inherit genes from his mother’s tall family, but it could happen. 

The son can also be shorter than his mother if there were problems during pregnancy or the son was born with some sort of health problem, medical condition, or hormonal deficiency. 

Another factor that could affect whether or not the son is shorter than the mother is if the mother was malnourished during pregnancy and if the son stays mostly malnourished throughout his life. 

This could happen due to lack of food or an underlying health issue, which is where the 30% environmental part comes from. Some countries do not have easy access to healthy, nutritional food on a daily basis like other countries.

In order to grow properly, your body needs all of the necessary nutrients. Without them, a son’s growth could be stunted, and his body would not be able to grow properly which would affect things like height, bone structure, weight, and behavior. 

Thus, in short (pun intended), height is determined by a combination of genes and environmental factors like nutrition (Source: Economics & Human Biology, Vol 15). So, even though it is quite rare, sons can be shorter than their mothers. Keep reading to learn more about sons’ height in relation to mothers.

Can Two Short Parents Have a Tall Son?

My parents are under 5’7″ and all three of their sons are taller than them.

Since we now know that height is for the most part genetic, it would make sense that an average-sized family would have an average-sized son and so on, but there are other things that should be taken into consideration.

The first important factor is how the rest of the families appear. Are the two short parents just the shortest of their family, or is the entire extended family on the smaller side as well? The responses to these questions can show a correlation in the heights of the sons.

The reason why their families are important to consider is because the parents got their genes from them; therefore, even though both parents may be short, they may have one tall parent or other closely related family member that is very tall. This shows us that there are still genes within the family that can lead to tall statures.

In my parents’ case, their three sons are quite a bit taller than they are. But as well, my parents are the short ones of their own siblings. They also happen to be the oldest children and were born during extremely hard economic times; their siblings grew up under better conditions. All of which is to say, my parents are more like outliers.

With that being said, it is very possible for two short parents to have a tall son. It would most likely mean that the son received a tall gene from each side of the family, as well as adequate environmental conditions to not inhibit growth. 

If most people on both sides of the family are short, then the son will probably follow that pattern. However, strange things happen in genetics and a short family could still produce a very tall child if the correct genes were expressed in that kid. There are also growth disorders that could cause the child to grow disproportionately tall compared to his or her family.

In Some Cultures Mothers Are Taller And Sons Are Too

There are some cultures that due to generations of dietary habits, genetics, and living conditions will tend to be demonstratively taller or shorter. If a mother has a son whose father is from a culture that tends to be much shorter than her own, she could end up having a son that is shorter than her.

This is actually not as likely as having a son that takes after her and becomes much taller. There are many factors that come into play and it is a tossup many times. Here is a chart to let you see some of the data that shows there are definite height advantages to some cultures in different parts of the world.

When looking at the average heights of the people in these countries, keep in mind that an average is tempered by the extreme lower heights and the countries at the top of the list represent the areas with the best chance of running into a really tall person.

RankTallest Countries Average Height (cm)Average Height (inches)
1Netherlands175.62 centimeters5 feet and 9.14 inches
2Latvia175.61 centimeters 5 feet and 9.14 inches
3Estonia175.13 centimeters5 feet and 8.95 inches
4Denmark174.29 centimeters5 feet and 8.62 inches
5Czech Republic174.28 centimeters5 feet and 8.61 inches
6Serbia174.13 centimeters5 feet and 8.56 inches
7Belgium173.59 centimeters5 feet and 8.34 inches
8Slovakia173.48 centimeters5 feet and 8.30 inches
9Bosnia / Herzegovina173.35 centimeters5 feet and 8.25 inches
10Iceland173.21 centimeters5 feet and 8.19 inches

This is even more convincing when a map of the world is looked at as a whole with the average heights noted. There is no denying that the generations that make up a culture and the diet that they regularly used have a great impact on the height of the children we have.

Another less acknowledged factor in a countries genetic/height makeup is the immigration from countries with lower average heights. This can take a countries population that would normally be taller and tend to produce shorter offspring due to interbreeding among genetic lines.

Many countries that are more homogenous will retain their tendency to be shorter or taller. With this being said, let me strongly state that height is only a measure of physical mass as it stretches into distance from the ground. It is not a measure of worth in people. These observations are simply looking at data, my past experience with many different students from many cultures, and commenting on something many notice.

Is Height Determined by the Mother or the Father?

As mentioned earlier in this article, height is mostly genetic—but where do those genes come from? Since height is genetic, it is a trait that is passed on from both of the parents.

Neither the mother nor the father is solely responsible for how tall any of their children will be. It is a team effort, so to speak.

With that being said, if there is a noticeable difference in height between a son and one of his parents, you will likely find someone around the same height of the son somewhere either side of the family. This would make it easier to decide on which side of the family the son got his height gene from. 

If the son is tall and so is his mother (tall for a woman or just tall in general) and the father is average or even short, then obviously, it seems the son received his height gene from the mother.

Predictors of Sons’ Height

Even though it’s not an exact science, there are charts that doctors use to predict and evaluate children’s growth, which includes height. Using growth charts that have been established by science, as well as other historical data, people can have a somewhat reliable idea of their children’s expected height.

One way to determine this is just simply by observation. With all other conditions normal, most people can expect their children to be within the same range of their parents in regards to height. Tall parents/families usually have tall children and vice versa.

There are two other models that seem more scientific than simply observation; they rely on a more quantitative approach that uses formulas, with of course, the disclaimers aforementioned.

One such formula provides a range. For sons, add 5 inches to the mother’s height for the minimum and use the father’s height as the maximum in the range. For daughters, use the mother’s height as the minimum and subtract five inches from the father’s height for the maximum. Again, disclaimers included, this isn’t guaranteed. But apparently it works enough for it to be common-use.

Using this for my own children, it means our sons’ height should fall within a range of 5’2″ and 6’1″ (and our daughter should be between 5’2″ and 5’8″). And this seems to be true in our family situation. Our twin boys are still growing as teenagers, but for now they are both 5’9″; our adult son is 5’10”. (As far as our daughter goes, at 5’3″ she is closer to my short stature than the maximum of 5’8″much to her disappointment.)

While another formula pinpoints the prediction specifically. It combines the mother and father’s measurements and for sons, adds five inches and for daughters, subtracts 5. Finally, it divides the number by two.

Using this method, my adult son would measure 5’10”, which he does (and adult daughter would be a respectable 5’5″. which she is not). It remains to be seen if our twins will reach or surpass 5’10”. Since it seems they have 1-2 years of growing left, I predict that this prediction falls short.

Nonetheless, it’s evident from all three methods that the height prediction is true in the case of my sons and me, and that also it’s true (as typical for most moms and sons) that my sons are taller than their mother.

Famous Short Sons and their Mothers

As said, most sons will be taller than their mothers even if they are still considered short for men. Let’s see how that stacks up in the celebrity world.

Kevin Hart- Famous Short Comedian

Kevin Hart is as much known for his stature as he is for his comedic timing. at 5’4″ he is definitely under the average height for the American male. According to the CDC, the average height for males is 5’9″. Nevertheless, Hart is a tad taller than his beloved mom (deceased since 2007 from cancer), albeit is a bit shorter than his father.

Daniel Radcliffe- Famous Short Actor

Daniel Radcliffe is most known for his role as a wizard, Harry Potter, in J.K. Rowling’s books and movies. However, he also happens to be small in height. He is 5’5″ tall, or short, that is. Yet, even as small as he is, he is taller than his mother, just like Kevin Hart.

Jonas Brothers- Famous Short Boy Band

The Jonas Brothers consists of Joe, Kevin, and Nick Jonas. They are three brothers who formed a singing group in their teens. Now in their young adulthood, they’ve all gone their separate ways to try out individual careers.

They also happen to be short by male standards: ranging from 5’6″ (Nick) to 5’8″ (Kevin).

Even though they are short, they are not shorter than their mother (or their father, for that matter).

As you can probably guess, it wasn’t too challenging to find examples of short male celebrities. However, it proved too challenging to find male celebrities shorter than their mothers- for me, anyway. I’m sure they exist, but in lieu of not spending all evening searching, I decided to move on to the other sections of this article (smile).

Which Health Conditions Affect Height?

One of the factors that could determine the height of a son could be a health condition of one sort or another. This could be something that the son was born with or a condition that formed later on in life. 

In the next few sections of this article, we will go over some of those health conditions.

Malnutrition During Growth

We know that the amount of nutrition that a child gets can affect height. It could also affect a child if the mother was malnourished while being pregnant. 

Malnutrition during pregnancy can cause quite a few birth defects that could last throughout a child’s entire life. If a son did not have a malnourished mother while in the womb, then being malnourished later in life could have the same effects. 

Calcium and iron are needed for proper growth; therefore, a child could be getting in plenty of food but not enough iron and calcium which could hinder their growth.

Gigantism May Be to Blame

Gigantism is a rare endocrine disease that causes very large growth all over the body due to too much growth hormone being produced within the body. 

This can cause a child to grow to outstanding heights, but also cause their organs and muscles to grow dangerously. 

This rare disease would one of the conditions that would cause two short parents to have a tall son, but as mentioned a couple of times already, it is extremely rare.

Dwarfism Can Also Modify Growth

Dwarfism can be a medical or genetic condition that causes parts of a person’s body to be small, or their whole body to be abnormally small, which is called disproportionate and proportionate dwarfism. 

Dwarfism can be caused by mutated genes, growth hormone deficiency, and poor nutrition. This would be one of the cases where a son would be shorter than his mother, but this is very rare. 

These conditions could be responsible for an abnormal height of a son where he is much taller or much shorter than his parents and the rest of his family, but these conditions are definitely not always the cause—and it would certainly be evident if they were.

Wrapping Up Can Sons Be Shorter Than Their Mothers

In our case, the sons are not shorter than the mother, which they’re thankful for since I’m barely 5’2″.
Here we are in 2019 in London.

In conclusion, it’s fairly typical for men to be taller than women, on average. This has caused many sons to be taller than their mothers, but it is by no means a hard and fast rule.

It is possible, though rare, for sons to be shorter than their mothers. This could happen if most of the son’s family members are short with only a few tall members, or if the son has some type of underlying issue affecting growth. To be perfectly honest, I searched for any example of sons shorter than their biological mothers and was not able to find any except for those examples of sons with a medical abnormality.

For further reading on the subject of sons, I’ve written about sons and mothers relationships, as well as the comparison of sons and daughters, too.

Sources

The Hen Barn

Science Focus

Science Focus- Why do kids grow taller than their parents?

Healthline

Get It Tall

Health Guidance

Rare Diseases

Mayo Clinic

Jackie Booe

Jackie Booe is a Catholic mother of four, grandmother ("Oma") to two, and wife to Mat since 1994. She is a former public school teacher of 18 years, licensed in 3 states and certified to teach elementary, secondary English, and English Language Learners. In addition, she also taught education courses online as an adjunct professor, mentored numerous education interns, hosted professional development for educators, and tutored, as well as homeschooled.

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