Feeling a Little Fat: Stereotype Threat and Weight-Based Stigma as Predictor of Marriage
Reinecke, Sarah Adine
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Studies on the effects of excessive body weight have historically focused on weight in terms of pounds, or medically in terms of one's Body Mass Index (BMI) score. This research has shown that the social stigmatization of the overweight and obese has limited them in their ability to form romantic relationships and form lasting unions like marriage. However, currently no studies have looked at how personal perceptions of weight may impact these findings. As rates of obesity have increased, the perception of one's weight as deviant may have decreased as those with excessive weight have become the national majority. The present study tested the hypothesis that one's body weight in pounds was no longer a reliable predictor of relationship formation, relying instead on how one perceived their weight. Based on Stereotype Threat Theory, the present study hypothesized that as negative perceptions of one's weight increased, odds of marriage would decrease. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (N=12,225), this study found that although the framework of Stereotype Threat did not find support, one's perception of their body weight served as a better predictor of marriage than did measured or reported BMI. Further, by measured BMI we saw no statistically significant differences across odds of marriage. By contrast, those who perceived their weight as slightly overweight actually reported higher odds of marriage than those of normal weight. These results may suggest that body weight as measured in pounds may no longer be as salient to the formation of long-term relationship formation as it once was.
- Sociology