Social Psychological and Personality Science
This study examined whether and under what conditions parents might stereotype their own heavyweight children. Parents completed a survey assessing their beliefs about their 9- to 11- year-old children. Parents were also assessed on factors previously demonstrated to moderate people’s reactions to heavyweight strangers, including Protestant work ethic (PWE) and personal vulnerability to disease. Consistent with findings on how people view heavyweight strangers, parents who endorsed the PWE or had enhanced disease concerns attributed negative fat stereotypes (e.g., laziness, lacking self-control) to their heavyweight children. Although parental identification did not moderate stereotyping of one’s overweight children, those individuals who highly identified with their role as parents spent more time with their heavier-weight children, potentially reflecting a compensatory pattern of behaviors. That even parents negatively stereotype their young heavyweight children reveals the long reach of the anti-fat psychology and suggests that efforts to mitigate the application of fat stereotypes may be particularly difficult.
Part of this research was performed as Andreana Kenrick’s honors thesis
under the supervision of the second and third authors. We thank
Clark Presson for serving on the committee, and Chris Crandall for his
role as external examiner. We appreciate the Arizona State University
Barrett Honors College for partially funding this research, and especially
the officers of the parent–teacher organizations at the participating
schools for providing their logistical help.