Title

Self-Objectification among Overweight and Obese Women: An Application of Structural Equation Modeling

Date of Award

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

Psychology/Developmental

First Advisor

Robert A. Carels, PhD, MBA

Second Advisor

Robert A. Carels, PhD, MBA (Committee Chair)

Third Advisor

Yiwei Chen, PhD (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Anne K. Gordon, PhD (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Gregory G. Garske, PhD (Committee Member)

Abstract

Research on self-objectification has traditionally utilized samples of young, normal weight, female college students which greatly limit the ability to generalize the results to other groups, particularly to overweight and obese individuals. Despite the incredibly high rates of overweight and obesity among adults in the United States and the obvious relevance of body objectification to the overweight and obese, they have been understudied to this date. Objectification theory posits that individuals can be concerned with their physical appearance regardless of body size. However, given their greater distance from the impossibly thin standard the culture has idealized as well as the considerable evidence for weight based objectification, internalized weight bias, and binge eating disorder, it is plausible that the particular mechanisms through which one experiences self-objectification may differ for those who are overweight and obese.

This study tested two proposed measurement models of the relationship of body image in the psychosocial processes of weight based objectification. The relationships between weight-based objectifying experiences, internalized weight bias, self-objectification, body image, depression and disordered eating were analyzed using Objectification theory as a guiding framework. Structural equation modeling indicated a differing role for body image depending on weight status. Specifically, poor body image fit as an observed measure of Internalized Objectification for the Overweight Sample while occurring as a Psychosocial Outcome within the Normal Weight sample. Additional analyses of the structural models also indicate that for the Overweight sample, the relationship between Objectifying Experiences and Psychosocial Outcomes is fully mediated by the process of Internalized Objectification. In general, the preliminary results of this study provide support for the notion that self-objectification is likely a relevant construct in the lives of most women albeit consisting of group specific manifestations and requiring different methods of measurement.