Weight stereotyping in young children: an early personality reasoning perspective in 3- to 6-year-olds

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jamie Lee Peterson (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Janet Boseovski

Abstract: Weight stereotyping is the relative devaluation of an overweight body size (Sigelman, Miller, & Whitworth, 1986), which has been detected as early as 3 years of age (Cramer & Steinwert, 1998). Previous studies of weight stereotypes have not been informed by what we know about children‘s social reasoning processes (i.e., positivity and negativity biases), essentialist beliefs about weight (i.e., contagiousness, biological origins, stability, and changeability) or concurrently developing cognitive and social abilities (i.e., cognitive flexibility, theory of mind, and working memory). The current study examined weight stereotypes in 80 3- to 6- year-old children using a story-distracter-recall paradigm. Results indicate that with age, children are more accurate in labeling positive traits. Essentialist weight reasoning was not consistent across domains, but generally increased with age (from 6.15 to 8.7 on a 14–point scale). Cognitive abilities were related to weight essentialism; notably, increases in cognitive flexibility and working memory were associated with decreases in weight stability beliefs for older children. Implications for the role of weight stereotypes in behaviors (i.e., discrimination) and the formation of stereotype interventions are discussed.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2010
Cognitive flexibility, Essentialism, Social cognitive development, Stereotype development, Stereotype reduction, Weight bias
Body image $x Social aspects.
Body image in children.
Stereotype (Psychology).

Email this document to