Purpose: To explore how African-American and Caucasian adolescent girls describe weight-related stigmatization experiences and their responses to these experiences.
Methodology: Fifty girls from five urban Midwest high schools participated in the study (mean age 16.1 years, mean body mass index 33.6). The girls participated in clinical research interviews, which were audiotaped, transcribed, and coded.
Results: All but two of the participants described stigmatizing experiences, the most frequently reported of which were direct and intentional, such as name calling and teasing. Hurtful comments and behaviors by family members and peers which appeared to be less intentional were also described by study participants. Responses to these experiences varied both within and across interviews and included ignoring or attempting to ignore hurtful experiences, feeling hurt, and getting mad.
Conclusions: The results stress the importance of discussing issues of stigmatization and responses to these hurtful experiences with overweight youth within clinical and educational settings. Furthermore, family members, teachers, and nonoverweight peers need to increase their awareness of the impact of their remarks on and behavior toward overweight youth within a society that values thinness.