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Title: Weight bias and theory of mind in young children
Author: Randall, Clare
ISNI:       0000 0004 9356 3098
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2020
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Introduction: Childhood obesity has been described as an epidemic. For children with obesity, they are likely to experience the additional challenge of obesity stigma. This was the first study to investigate the impact of ToM and weight bias in young children. Lapan & Boseovski (2016) suggest children with high ToM are able to disregard physical characteristics when making trait attributions. Therefore it was hypothesised weight bias would be present and children with high ToM would show less bias. Method: Children (63 male and 76 female) aged four to six years, were read a storybook which contained an assessment of ToM and weight bias. Children were asked to make forced choices between characters differing in body shape and then to justify their decisions. Results: In the character selection, children showed significant bias towards the healthy weight character. There were significantly more negative comments, made by children, after choosing the character with obesity. After their choice, three themes emerged in their reasons: ‘emotion’, ‘story’ and ‘appearance’. ToM impacted children’s character selection, as a higher proportion of children with high ToM showed weight bias. There were no differences between children with low and high ToM in their justifications. No differences in weight bias were observed between girls or boys, nor in younger or older children. Discussion: Weight bias was present in young children’s character selection and the valence of their justifications. Bias was not clear in the thematic analysis of responses and reference to body shape was very limited. It is suggested children may modify their responses when asked to talk about bias, which may be evidence of a separate process. ToM is likely to enhance this process. Further research is needed to understand the impact of ToM on other biases young children hold such as disability. ToM is a helpful framework to increase understanding of stigma in young children, which may in turn inform interventions to reduce bias.
Supervisor: Hill, Andrew ; Latchford, Gary Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available