Exploring Responses to Witnessing Subtle Weight-Based Bias from a Mother to Daughter – UROP Symposium

Exploring Responses to Witnessing Subtle Weight-Based Bias from a Mother to Daughter

Rowan Klar

Research Mentor(s): Desiree Aleibar
Program: WAGSFP
Authors: Desiree Aleibar, Rowan Klar


Weight stigma research has gained increasing attention, but little investigation has focused on weight-based bias perception, namely subtle suggestions of weight-based stigma. Understanding how people recognize weight bias, especially subtle forms of weight-based bias (i.e. weight-based microaggressions), is crucial for understanding societal responses and developing strategies to mitigate harm. Weight-based microaggressions towards children, namely by mothers, may be especially important for understanding the prevention of harmful effects that could last a lifetime. In this research, we asked if the weight status of the daughter (Normal, Overweight, Obese) predicts the extent to which individuals recognize the mother’s actions as weight bias. We also asked if perceived weight bias predicts the extent to which participants blame the mother or the daughter, and the perceived harm to the daughter. We hypothesized that the higher the weight status, the less likely people will label the mother’s actions as reflecting weight bias and the more people recognize the interaction as weight bias, the more likely they are to blame the mother over the daughter and see the scenario as harmful. Participants were exposed to a vignette where a mother perpetrates a weight-based microaggression toward her daughter. The daughter’s weight status was manipulated. Participants indicated whether they perceived the mother’s actions as reflecting weight-based bias, and indicated perceived fault attribution (mother/daughter) and harm attribution (mother only). Results are discussed. This study sheds light on weight-based bias perception, specifically by microaggressions, and its implications for individuals and society. Findings can inform strategies to reduce harm from weight stigma and develop preventive measures for physical and mental health problems associated with it.

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