Identifier

etd-06232016-142614

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

Obesity rates in the United States (U.S.) continue to rise with approximately 34.9% of adults considered obese and an additional 34% that are overweight. With the increased prevalence of obesity, there has also been a rise in weight-based discrimination and weight bias in the U.S. The present study examined the association between body mass index (BMI) and psychological functioning, and whether internalized weight bias and weight-based stigmatizing experiences moderated this relationship. In addition, the present study examined if weight bias internalization mediated the relationship between weight-based stigmatizing experiences and psychological functioning. Non-treatment seeking overweight and obese participants (N = 112) completed several questionnaires including the Weight Bias Internalization Scale (WBIS), Stigmatizing Situations Inventory (SSI), and Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI). Contrary to expectations, results showed that body mass index (BMI) did not significantly predict participants’ overall psychological functioning; however, it did significantly predict the somatization subscale of the BSI. Consistent with predicted hypotheses, BMI, internalized weight bias, and weight-based stigmatizing experiences explained a significant amount of the variance in psychological functioning; however, inconsistent with predicted hypotheses, neither internalized weight bias nor weight-based stigmatizing experiences moderated the relationship between BMI and psychological functioning. As predicted, weight-based stigmatizing experiences was found to be a significant predictor of internalized weight bias, and weight-based stigmatizing experiences was a significant predictor of psychological functioning. Results indicated that the direct effect of weight-based stigmatizing experiences on psychological functioning was significant, indicating that weight-based stigmatizing experiences also affects psychological functioning in ways independent of internalization. Consistent with expectations, the indirect effect of weight-based stigmatizing experiences on psychological functioning was significantly greater than zero, indicating that individuals who have weight-based stigmatizing experiences were, on average, 0.040 units higher in their likelihood of experiencing psychological distress as a result of the effect of internalized weight bias. Results provide evidence for significant relationships between internalized weight bias and weight-based stigmatizing experiences and psychological functioning, as well as support the predicted hypothesis that weight bias internalization mediates the relationship between weight-based stigmatizing experiences and psychological functioning. Recommendations for future research based on these findings are discussed.

Date

2016

Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Copeland, Amy

Included in

Psychology Commons

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