Vulnerability to fat-stigma in women's everyday relationships

Alexandra Slade, Daniel Hruschka, Amber Wutich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

33 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Obesity is understood as a major medical and public health challenge, but the stigma attached to it also creates extraordinary suffering. The pervasiveness of morally negative views toward the overweight and obese, such as laziness and lack of self-control, are undeniable in mainstream U.S. society, situated both institutionally (such as health care barriers or media stereotypes) and interpersonally (such as the negative comments of others). To test basic pathways related to the etiology of women's vulnerability to feeling "fat-stigma" in interpersonal relationships, we present a study conducted between August and November 2009 that combines social network, anthropometric, body image, and interview data for 112 women aged 18-45 years, living in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., and linked follow-up interviews with 823 of their social ties. Based on the proposition that some social network characteristics should amplify the personal experience of stigma, and others should ameliorate it, we ask: what relationship qualities make women more sensitive to the judgments of others about their weight? We find that what others say about women has only a very limited influence on how women judge others' negative views of their weight once actual body size is taken into account, but that women are more influenced by the opinions of those they are closer to and interact with more often. Ultimately, the degree to which women perceive themselves to be judged by others regarding their weight is not well explained by the actual opinions of people in their networks, either known or unknown to them. The assumption that social network norms exert considerable influence on people's stigma experiences needs to be carefully evaluated, at least in the domain of overweight and obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-497
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume73
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2011

Fingerprint

vulnerability
Fats
Social Support
social network
Weights and Measures
Obesity
Interviews
body image
Body Image
self-control
Body Size
interview
Stigma
Vulnerability
Fat
etiology
Psychological Stress
stereotype
Emotions
experience

Keywords

  • Culture
  • Norms
  • Obesity
  • Overweight
  • Relationships
  • Social networks
  • Stigma
  • Suffering
  • USA
  • Weight discrimination
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)

Cite this

Vulnerability to fat-stigma in women's everyday relationships. / Slade, Alexandra; Hruschka, Daniel; Wutich, Amber.

In: Social Science and Medicine, Vol. 73, No. 4, 08.2011, p. 491-497.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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