Masters Thesis

Exploration of the relationship between childhood overweight status, weight-based teasing, and body image dissatisfaction in formerly overweight adults

Obesity’s impact on psychological health and well-being has been the subject of a growing body of literature. Body image dissatisfaction is a psychological variable that is influenced by overweight status and has been linked with negative psychosocial outcomes. Women have reported higher body image dissatisfaction scores than men, but both groups show similar trends. Research into body image dissatisfaction has investigated adults and children who are currently overweight, and adults who have experienced weight-loss interventions. The relationship between frequency and perceived effect of weight-based teasing and body image dissatisfaction in overweight and obese children has been explored. Very little research has looked at weight loss’s impact on normal-weight adults who were formerly overweight as children. The role of frequency and effect of weight-based teasing on body image dissatisfaction for this population has also been seldom considered. This study assessed, in normal-weight adults, if being overweight and experiencing weight-based teasing in childhood negatively impacted body image. Hypothesis one predicted body image dissatisfaction would be higher for the adults who were overweight in childhood, versus adults who had never been overweight. Hypothesis two predicted that adults who were overweight as children, and who experienced a higher frequency and perceived effect of weight-based teasing would have higher body image dissatisfaction scores than formerly overweight adults who experienced a lesser frequency and perceived effect of weight-based teasing. For both hypotheses, women were predicted to show a greater overall effect than men. A stepwise linear regression analysis was used for both hypotheses. Hypothesis one was confirmed in that having experienced former overweight status before age 18 resulted in higher BID scores. For hypothesis two, higher frequency of weight-based teasing in former overweight adults resulted in significant increases in BID. Perceived effect of teasing did not have a significant effect on BID. Gender was also was also found to be a significant predictor of BID, with being a woman resulting in higher body image dissatisfaction than men. Overall, the results of the analysis suggest that in currently “normal” weight adults, having been previously overweight before age 18, and having experienced higher frequency of weight-based teasing, and being female contributes to higher BID scores as an adult. Future work should address refining assessments and outreach for body image studies to more diverse populations, such as men, individuals across different ethnicities, age ranges, orientations and gender identifications to better evaluate the applicability of this studies findings.