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«The Stigmatisation of Obesity by University Students Who Will be the Future Counsellors, Educators, and Psychologists* Sultan Okumuşoğlu Europian ...»

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Results of this study point out a general tendency of participants to have biased attitudes toward people with obesity to conceptualize them as individuals who “does not like to move” and “have restricted ability to move”. Participants tend to think people with obesity as “unhealthy” people, who “move slowly”, “quickly get tired”, “vulnerable to ilnesses”, “smelling sweat”, “unattractive”, “unhappy”, “unesthetic”, and “lazy”. They tend to think people with obesity “do not have self confidence” or “will power”, “do not prefferred for sentimental relationships” and “seem older than they really are”. Findings are paralel with other studies which pointed out negative attitudes toward people with obesity (Chambliss, Finley, & Blair, 2004; Harris, Sandoval, & Cortese, 1998; Sikorski et al., 2011, 2013).

Analysis revealed that even participants who informed they have no prejudical bias toward people with obesity does not have mean scores below 68 (M = 81.687, SD = 10.253) which means having non-prejudical attitudes. It means people have no insight about their biased attitudes toward people with obesity as mentioned in Miller et al.’s study (2013).

The participants who attribute personal responsibility for obesity condition (M = 88.368, SD = 8.557) are founded more biased toward people with obesity than participants who does not (M = 72.151, SD = 5.629). It is paralel with the literature which relates stigmatising attitudes and rejection with personal responsibility attribution (Crandall et al., 2001; Weiner, Perry, & Magnusson, 1988).

School setting has potential to increase the risk factors which creates vulnerability for any kind of psychological disturbance like eating disorders and obesity. School setting is also important in terms of early detection and prevention efforts for obesity and for eating disorders, and for any kind of psychological disturbance. Even perceived discrimination effects people’s lives (Sikorski et al., 2011). Therefore, it is obvious that discriminative prejudical attitudes by authority figures will effect all these areas negatively, will make things worst. These facts increase the importance of negative attitudes held by authority figures at school settings.

Beside possible effects to self esteem and psychological well being of students with obesity, attitudes of councellors, psychologists, and teachers who work with students have potential to shape students’ attitudes towards obesity, therefore findings of present study seems alarming.

As pointed out (Puhl, Chelsea, & Heuer, 2010), the stigmatisation of obesity creates barriers for promotion of effective intervention efforts beside having undesired consequences in terms of health. Because of all possible negative consequences, findings of this study implies a serious need to shape indiscriminative attitudes to promote acceptance about weight diversity. The findings of present study implies a need for comprehensive educational interventions which can challenge existing stereotypes for university students who will be the future counsellors, educators and psychologists.

Results also points out a need for future research about the factors effecting weight stigma in order to be able to plan future educational intervention programs that adressing to these aspects. Because of sample size there might be limitations in terms of generalisability, therefore results of present study can be accepted as a pilot study for guidelines to design future studies with bigger sample sizes to study prevelance of weight stigma among prospective professionals of school settings.

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