Parents have both implicit and explicit biases against children with obesity

Abstract

Weight bias (negative attitudes towards individuals with obesity) has been widely observed, but not examined in parents. In this study, we measured parents’ (N = 658; 74.2% female) explicit and implicit weight bias against children with obesity. Many parents (n = 612; 93%) endorsed some moderate explicit weight bias. Fathers had greater explicit bias than mothers and parents with overweight/obesity had less bias than those with healthy-weight. Other parent/child variables (i.e., parent age, child sex, child weight, child age) were not significantly associated with explicit bias. Parents also demonstrated implicit weight bias. No parent or child variables were significantly associated with implicit bias. Parents may contribute, among many others, to the stigmatizing environment experienced by youth with overweight/obesity, which has been associated with negative child psychosocial functioning and health. Clinical research into strategies to reduce parental weight bias against children with obesity or increase children’s resilience to weight discrimination is needed to improve children’s health and well-being.

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Acknowledgement

This research was funded, in part, by National Institutes of Health (K24 DK070052). An earlier version of this research was presented at the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine annual conference in 2017.

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Correspondence to Janet A. Lydecker.

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Conflict of interest

Janet A. Lydecker, Elizabeth O’Brien, and Carlos M. Grilo declare that they have no conflict of interest. Dr. Grilo reports no relevant direct or indirect conflicts of interest with respect to this study, but reports the following recent and previous broader interests. For the past 12-months, Dr. Grilo reports receiving honoraria for lectures delivered for CME-related activities and plenaries and lectures at professional academic conferences and reports royalties from academic books published by Guilford Press and Taylor & Francis Publishers. Beyond 12-months, Dr. Grilo reports having received consultant fees from Shire and Sunovion, and honoraria for CME-related lectures and for lectures delivered at grand rounds and professional academic conferences nationally and internationally.

Human and animal rights and Informed consent

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Lydecker, J.A., O’Brien, E. & Grilo, C.M. Parents have both implicit and explicit biases against children with obesity. J Behav Med 41, 784–791 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-018-9929-4

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Keywords

  • Implicit bias
  • Weight stigma
  • Body image
  • Parents