Black and white adolescents' perceptions of their weight

J Sch Health. 1989 Oct;59(8):353-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-1561.1989.tb04743.x.


Black and white adolescents' perceptions of their weight were examined in this study. A 22-item questionnaire on weight perceptions and weight control was administered to 341 adolescents from two inner city schools in the midwest (138 black and 193 white students). Students were classified as thin, normal, or heavy based on National Health Survey data on height and weight measurements for youth ages 12-17. Significant differences (p less than .05) occurred in how the heavy black and white males and females perceived their weight in comparison to actual weight. All heavy white females perceived they were heavy, in comparison to only 40% of heavy black females; 78% of heavy white males labeled themselves heavy vs. 36% of heavy black males. Thin black and white females were dieting and exercising to lose weight and thin white males were exercising to lose weight. Black males were significantly more likely to believe emotions did not affect their weight when compared to white males. Black females believed exercise levels accounted for their weight, while white females attributed their weight to eating habits. Beliefs about exercise and eating contributed 23% to the variance found in perceived weight status of black males. White males believed access to food and their emotions accounted for their perceived weight. Leading sources of weight control information regardless of ethnicity were television, family members, friends and magazines for females; males used TV, family members, and athletic coaches.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • Body Image*
  • Body Weight*
  • Emotions
  • Exercise
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • United States
  • Urban Population