Do the Factors of Weight and Race Influence Judgments made about Mothers?

Open Access
Martin, Victoria Marie
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Dr Sandra Azar, Thesis Supervisor
  • Kenneth Levy, Honors Advisor
  • child neglect
  • bias
  • weight
  • race
  • mothers
  • parenting
This study examined whether or not individuals would display biases in judgments made about mothers’ parenting based solely on physical appearance. Specifically, weight and race were investigated as potential platforms for biased judgments regarding neglectful parenting, and both implicit and explicit biases were assessed. “Mothers” were represented through face stimuli that were manipulated to be heavy or of average weight. It was posited that black and heavier mothers would be judged to be more neglectful relative to Caucasian and average weight mothers. Also, it was posited that biased attributions would be made more frequently by individuals who expressed having stronger explicit biases toward black and heavy persons. Those who expressed having less positive self-body images were also hypothesized to rate heavier women as more neglectful. The sample was comprised of 131 university students. As predicted, results showed that black women were judged to be more neglectful than white women. Also, heavy white women were judged to be more neglectful than white women of average weight. Explicit biases against both heavy and black persons were found and correlated positively with judgments of neglect. These findings provide support for the theory that mothers may be seen to be more neglectful as parents simply due to their being overweight, black, or both. Implications regarding decisions made by those who work for Child Protective Services (CPS) will be discussed.