Anti-fat attitudes among children

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Penny, Helen.
  • Subject: BF

Research has shown that adults consistently derogate overweight adults. However, little research has explored children's perceptions of overweight children. The aim of the present thesis was to explore the prevalence and nature of children's attitudes towards overweight children and to test an intervention designed to reduce such anti-fat prejudice. Children between 3 and 11 years of age took part in a range of investigations measuring: (1) children's desire to be friends with overweight children compared with average-weight black and white children, (2) children's stereotypes regarding overweight children's athletic, academic, artistic, and social abilities, (3) the mere-proximity effect, which is whether average-weight children are derogated when evaluated in the proximity of overweight children, and (4) the effectiveness of an intervention designed to reduce anti-fat prejudice. The key results showed that: (1) overweight children were liked significantly less than average-weight black and white children, (2) children eight years of age and younger held negative stereotypes about overweight children regarding their athletic, academic, artistic, and social abilities, (3) average-weight female targets were derogated when evaluated in the proximity of overweight female characters, and (4) the intervention altered children's answers on explicit (but not implicit) measures of anti-fat prejudice, and this tended to persist and sometimes became stronger over time. The implications of these findings are discussed with regards to obesity stigma in the context of existing research and future directions for research are discussed.
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