Gender differences in social consequences of perceived overweight in the United States and Australia

Abstract

This study investigated attitudes about body weight and appearance in a group of young adults. Undergraduate psychology students at the Flinders University of South Australia and at the University of Vermont were asked about their weight and dieting, consciousness about their body, the degree to which their weight had interfered with social activities, their perceptions about the causes of obseity, and their stereotypes about fat and thin men and women. Although 20% of the sample was overweight, 50% of subjects perceived themselves to be overweight to some degree. As expected, weight was a much greater issue for women, who felt more overweight, dieted more, expressed more body consciousness, and reported that weight had interfered more with social activities than did men. Also as expected, Vermont students reported greater frequency of dieting, more concern about weight, and more body consciousness than did students in Australia. Finally, men and women in both cultures stereotyped obese targets significantly more negatively than they did nonobese targets. The results indicate excessive and maladaptive concerns with weight in general, and among women and U.S. students in particular.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Billewicz, W. Z., Kemsley, W. F. F., & Thomson, A. M. Indices of adiposity. British Journal of Preventive Social Medicine, 1962, 16, 183–188.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Brownell, K. D. Obesity: Understanding and treating a serious, prevalent and refractory disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1982, 50, 820–840.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Canning, H., & Mayer, J. Obesity: An influence on high school performance. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1967, 20, 352–354.

    Google Scholar 

  4. De Jong, W. The stigma of obesity: The consequences of naive assumptions concerning the cause of physical deviance. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 1980, 21, 75–87.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Dwyer, J. T., Feldman, J. I., & Mayer, J. (1967). Adolescent dieters: Who are they? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1967, 20, 1045–1056.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Garrow, J. S., & Webster, J. Quetelet's index (W/H2) as a measure of fatness. International Journal of Obesity, 1985, 9, 147–153.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Harris, M. B., Harris, R. J., & Bochner, S. Fat, four-eyed and female: Stereotypes of obesity, glasses, and gender. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 1982, 12, 503–516.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Herman, C. P., & Polivy, J. Restrained eating. In A. J. Stunkard (Ed.), Obesity. Philadelphia, PA: W. B. Saunders, 1980.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Karris, L. Prejudice against obese renters. The Journal of Social Psychology, 1977, 101, 159–160.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Keys, A., Fidanza, F., Karvonen, M. J., Kimura, N., & Taylor, H. L. Indices of relative weight and obesity. Journal of Chronic Disease, 1972, 25, 329–343.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Khosla, T., & Lowe, C. R. Indices of obesity derived from body weight and height. British Journal of Preventive Social Medicine, 1967, 21, 122–128.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Larkin, J. C., & Pines, H. A. No fat persons need apply. Sociology of Work and Occupations, 1979, 6, 312–327.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Maddox, G. L., & Liederman, V. Overweight as social disability with medical implications. Journal of Medical Education, 1969, 44, 214–220.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Miller, L. C., Murphy, R., & Buss, A. H. Consciousness of body: Private and public. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1981, 41, 397–406.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Powers, P. S. Obesity: The regulation of weight. Baltimore, MD: Williams and Wilkins, 1980.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Silverstone, J. T. Psychological and social factors in the pathenogenesis of obesity. In W. Burland, P. Samuels, & J. Yudkin (Eds.), Obesity syndrome, Edinburgh: Churchill Livingston, 1974.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Venes, A. M., Krupka, L. R., & Gerard, R. J. Overweight/obese patients: An overview. The Practitioner, 1982, 226, 1102–1109.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Wooley, O. W., Wooley, S. C., & Dyrenforth, S. R. Obesity and women. Women's Studies International Quarterly, 1979, 2, 81–92.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Marika Tiggemann.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Tiggemann, M., Rothblum, E.D. Gender differences in social consequences of perceived overweight in the United States and Australia. Sex Roles 18, 75–86 (1988). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00288018

Download citation

Keywords

  • Body Weight
  • United States
  • Young Adult
  • Gender Difference
  • Social Psychology