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Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Jul;32(7):1145-52. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2008.53. Epub 2008 Apr 15.

Weighing obesity stigma: the relative strength of different forms of bias.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI, USA. jlatner@hawaii.edu

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To compare the strength of weight bias to other common biases, and to develop a psychometrically sound measure to assess and compare bias against different targets.

SUBJECTS:

A total of 368 university students (75.4% women, 47.6% white, mean age: 21.53 years, mean body mass index (BMI): 23.01 kg/m(2)).

MEASUREMENTS:

A measure was developed to assess bias against different targets. Three versions of the universal measure of bias (UMB) were developed and validated, each focusing on either 'fat,' 'gay' or 'Muslim' individuals. These were administered to participants, along with two established scales of bias against each target and a measure of socially desirable response style.

RESULTS:

The UMB demonstrated good internal consistency, appropriate item-total and inter-item correlations, and a clear factor structure suggesting components of Negative Judgment, Distance, Attraction and Equal Rights. Construct validity was indicated by strong correlations between established measures of bias and each corresponding version of the new scale. In contrast to previously established measures of weight bias, the new measure was independent of socially desirable response style. Although homosexual orientation was associated with lower gay bias (P<0.05), greater BMI was not associated with any decrease in weight bias. When comparing the relative strength of bias against different targets, weight bias was significantly greater than bias against both gays and Muslims (P<0.001).

CONCLUSION:

Weight bias is significantly stronger than other major targets of bias. This is the first study to develop a universal measure to assess bias against different targets. The excellent psychometric properties of this measure will permit further investigation into the relative severity of different types of prejudice over time and across samples. The present findings suggest that the pervasive discrimination against obese individuals may be more socially acceptable than discrimination against other groups.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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