Perceived Weight’s Role on Friendship Selection as Mediated by Weight Self-Relevance, Body Satisfaction, and Internalized Weight Bias
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Given that it is known that individuals in a friendship cliques tend to be of similar BMIs (Bruening et al., 2015; Fletcher, Bonell, & Sorhaindo, 2011), the present study investigates potential explanations as for why. Although previous literature has suggested that it is due to friends altering each other’s eating behavior (Fletcher, Bonell, & Sorhaindo, 2011; Howland, Hunger, & Mann, 2012; Hutchinson & Rapee, 2007), this study examines the possibility that the root cause of this phenomenon is during the friendship selection phase. To test this, a vignette was created in three weight conditions where the target weighed either 30 pounds less, equal to, or 30 pounds more than the participant. A new measure, created for this study, to gauge the participants interest in befriending the target (α = .92) was then administered to participants. In further nuance, the study also investigated the possible mediating effects of individuals’ weight self-relevance, body dissatisfaction, internalized weight bias, and gender. It was found that weight condition on its own was not significant in determining a person’s willingness to befriend the target; however, the three-way interaction of condition x gender x self-relevance was significant. Further, gender, body dissatisfaction, internalized weight bias, and the self-relevance-condition interaction were all significant as predictor variables for friendship selection overall, but not based on weight. Additional research should be directed to uncover the extent to which weight self-relevance acts as a mediator in friendship selection of individuals across a spectrum of weight classes.
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