General Question

KatawaGrey's avatar

Why is it that dwarfism is legally defined by height?

Asked by KatawaGrey (21433points) May 26th, 2011

In the United States possibly in other countries as well, though I am not sure a person is legally considered a dwarf if he or she is under 4’10 in height. Why is this so? Dwarfism is caused by one of a number of medical conditions that may result in the shortening of bones or disproportionate growth of bones or even imbalanced hormones. According to Wikipedia, anyway. Considering this, why is it that a short human, who is lacking in any of these conditions, may be considered a dwarf? Why aren’t the criteria for being legally classified as a dwarf related to medical conditions rather than solely height?

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10 Answers

jaytkay's avatar

a person is legally considered a dwarf

There is a legal definition of dwarf?

roundsquare's avatar

Why would the medical cause matter? Unless that has some effect on how someone interacts with the world, it shouldn’t matter to the law. Someone’s height does affect how they interact with the world, so that is what the law should look at. “How someone interacts with the world” includes things like going to the hospital, etc… so maybe its important, but, in general, someone who is short and doesn’t have the the medical condition and someone who is short and does have the medical condition are generally treated the same and have the same issues to deal with.

Buttonstc's avatar

I can’t remember the exact number accurately, but I do recall Amy Roloff (who has Acondroplasia dwarfism) menttioning in one episode of their TV show that the number of different types of Dwarfism is over 120 categories. It could have been even larger than that and I know it definitely wasn’t less than a hundred.

Perhaps for the sake of simplicity, it’s easier to just use height as the criteria as opposed to listing each variation separately. Can you imagine how many pages it would take to list each medical definition separately?

That’s just my guess tho but goodness knows, legal issues are tangled and complex enough so height would seem to be the simplest criteria.

I know I was really surprised when she said this as I never would have guessed that large a number. But since she and her husband are very active in LPA, the largest Dwarf advocacy group and both lecture considerably to educate people, I would assume her figures would be accurate.

Little People, Big World was on for numerous years. I really enjoyed that show and learned a lot from it.

keobooks's avatar

I quoted this from the Little People of America’s website. This is about as official as you can get. It’s NOT just your height. I actually asked someone from LPA about this a few years back because my grandmother is only 4’9”. She does not fit the LPA definition of dwarfism because she has no medical condition causing her size.

Little People of America (LPA) defines dwarfism as a medical or genetic condition that usually results in an adult height of 4’10” or shorter, among both men and women, although in some cases a person with a dwarfing condition may be slightly taller than that.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Is there an actual legal condition, with a law, or is it that the medical field defines being a dwarf as being 4’10, with a variety of causes? Because a Google search for “dwarf legal height” and “dwarf law height” don’t really turn up anything aside from other questions on various sites (YA,,, etc) about this.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I agree that the medical community should not call someone who is just naturally short a “dwarf” unless there is an underlying genetic condition. I think my granny was 4’10”, and there was nothing genetically wrong with her. On my husband’s hispanic side of the family, there are a lot of aunties that are 4’10” and under. There are a few men who only come to my nose, and I am only 5’3”.

roundsquare's avatar

@KatawaGrey Where are you finding this legal definition?

KatawaGrey's avatar

@roundsquare: I always thought it was common knowledge, but I figured no one would take my word for it so I linked wikipedia. I have also met people who are legally defined as dwarves even though they lack any medical condition they told me themselves that they were legally defined as dwarves. Though, as @keobooks points out, the LPA website does not define dwarfism as just being short, but I have no idea if that actually coincides with the official law on the matter.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@KatawaGrey Except that Wikipedia doesn’t have a legal definition.

roundsquare's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs Yep, thats why I asked.

In law, a lot of times, the context matters. For example, maybe the “legal” definition of dwarfism you are using developed in the context of the military. In that case, it might make sense.

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