Dr. Janet D. Latner, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, has co-authored an article in the July 2009 edition of the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy on "Weight Stigma in Existing Relationships."
The research—conducted jointly by Professor Latner and New Zealand clinical psychologist Dr. Alice D. Boyes (www.aliceboyes.com)—addresses body image, weight, romantic relationships, and differences between men and women.
Associations between body mass index (BMI) and relationship quality and other partner/relationship perceptions were investigated in 57 couples in New Zealand. Heavier women had lower quality relationships, which they predicted were more likely to end. They partnered with less desirable men and thought their partners would rate them as less warm/trustworthy.
The male partners of heavier women judged the women's bodies less positively and men rated heavier women as poorer matches to their ideal partners for attractiveness/vitality. In contrast, men's BMIs were generally not associated with relationship functioning. These findings point to the potential mechanisms that may contribute to heavier women's relationship difficulties.
"Prejudice and discrimination are commonly directed at overweight individuals. However, few previous studies have examined whether weight stigma occurs within established romantic relationships. Our results suggest it does," said Dr. Latner.