Size Matters: Are Physically Large People More Likely to be Violent?

Christopher P. Salas-Wright, Michael George Vaughn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)


A number of studies suggest that physical size is associated with violent behavior. However, few, if any, studies have examined this relationship using population-based samples. Moreover, limited evidence exists on the relationship between physical size and violence with respect to gender, race/ethnicity, and exposure to childhood maltreatment. The present study, using data from Waves I and II (N = 34,653) of the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), aims to address these gaps by comparing the prevalence of violent behavior among individuals in the top quintiles in height and weight with that of the general population. Significant associations were identified for both males and females between physical size and bullying/intimidation, intentional injury of other persons, and hitting someone so hard that they required medical attention. Stratified analyses revealed that the magnitude of the relationship between physical size and violence is greater among Hispanics than among non-Hispanic Whites and African Americans. Childhood abuse and neglect significantly moderated the relationship between physical size and violent behavior. While an important degree of variability can be observed with respect to gender, race/ethnicity, and exposure to child maltreatment, results indicate that, in general, physically larger individuals are more likely than their relatively smaller counterparts to be violent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1274-1292
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Apr 1


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology

Cite this