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Do Parental Bonds Break Anti-fat Stereotyping?: Parental Work Ethic Ideology and Disease Concerns Predict Bias Against Heavyweight Children


This study examined whether and under what conditions parents might stereotype their own heavyweight children. Parents completed a survey assessing their beliefs about their 9- to 11-year-old children. Parents were also assessed on factors previously demonstrated to moderate people's reactions to heavyweight strangers, including Protestant work ethic (PWE) and personal vulnerability to disease. Consistent with findings on how people view heavyweight strangers, parents who endorsed the PWE or had enhanced disease concerns attributed negative fat stereotypes (e.g., laziness, lacking self-control) to their heavyweight children. Although parental identification did not moderate stereotyping of one's overweight children, those individuals who highly identified with their role as parents spent more time with their heavier-weight children, potentially reflecting a compensatory pattern of behaviors. That even parents negatively stereotype their young heavyweight children reveals the long reach of the anti-fat psychology and suggests that efforts to mitigate the application of fat stereotypes may be particularly difficult. © The Author(s) 2013.

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