The authors wish to thank Christopher Bradley, I-Fen Lin, Denise Reiling, Diane Taub, and the three anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Sociological Society. Please direct correspondence to Holly R. Fee, Department of Sociology, Bowling Green State University, 222 Williams Hall, Bowling Green, OH 43403; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social Distance and the Formerly Obese: Does the Stigma of Obesity Linger?*
Article first published online: 4 MAY 2012
© 2012 Alpha Kappa Delta
Volume 82, Issue 3, pages 356–377, August 2012
How to Cite
Fee, H. R. and Nusbaumer, M. R. (2012), Social Distance and the Formerly Obese: Does the Stigma of Obesity Linger?. Sociological Inquiry, 82: 356–377. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-682X.2012.00420.x
- Issue published online: 6 JUL 2012
- Article first published online: 4 MAY 2012
Research has documented the stigma of obesity extensively, but little attention has been given to the study of stigma toward formerly obese individuals. The present study examines whether the stigma of obesity in romantic relationships carries over to formerly obese individuals by using primary data collected from a Midwestern university in the United States (N = 363). We consider how an individual's own body weight, demographic characteristics, familiarity, and attitudes affect the willingness to form a romantic relationship with a formerly obese person. Results suggest that obese individuals are less likely to hesitate about engaging in a romantic relationship with a formerly obese person than underweight or normal weight individuals, but only when attitudes toward obese and formerly obese individuals are controlled. In terms of demographic characteristics, men and African Americans are more likely to hesitate about forming a romantic relationship than their respective counterparts. More familiarity with currently obese family members and formerly obese close friends appears to reduce the stigma minimally. Greater social distance is also desired if weight loss is believed to be temporary.