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Int J Eat Disord. 1999 Apr;25(3):273-9.

The role of familial values in understanding the impact of social class on weight concern.

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Department of General Practice, Kings College, London, United Kingdom.



To examine the role of social class on aspects of weight concern and to assess the possible impact of values on mediating this association.


Two hundred fifty-seven girls ranging in age from 13 to 16, from either a fee paying inner city independent girls school (higher class school, n = 135) or a state comprehensive, inner city girls school (lower class school, n = 122) completed a questionnaire concerning their profile characteristics (age, social class), aspects of their weight concern, and their own and their perceptions of their significant others' values (achievement, family life, and physical appearance).


The results showed consistent effects of class on weight concern, with the higher class subjects reporting higher levels of restrained eating, greater body dissatisfaction, and body distortion than their lower class counterparts. The results also showed an effect of class on values, with the lower class subjects placing more importance on family life from both their own perspective and that of their parents and friends, and rating their friends as valuing achievement and physical appearance more than the higher class subjects. In terms of the best predictors of weight concern, the results showed that higher levels of restrained eating were related to being from a higher class, placing greater importance upon physical appearance, preferring a thinner ideal female body, and placing less importance upon family life; greater body dissatisfaction was related to being from a higher social class, placing greater importance upon physical appearance and a lower importance upon achievement, and greater body distortion was related to being from a higher social class and a high value placed upon physical appearance.


The results indicate both a direct social class/weight concern link and a relationship which is mediated by values. The results are discussed in terms of developing an improved measure of class values and the relatively stable nature of class boundaries.

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