Body Weight and the Effects of Misperceived Norms on Personal Body Image in Adolescence: Results from an Online Assessment Tool for Secondary Schools


H. Wesley Perkins, Ph.D., Dept. of Anthropology/Sociology
David W. Craig, Ph.D., Dept. of Chemistry

Hobart & William Smith Colleges


Abstract

The social norms model of misperceived norms and its consequences can be applied to concerns about body weight in adolescent populations. Data are drawn from an online survey students (N=5698) from seven middle and high schools. Results of four analyses will be presented: 1) Body mass index distributions by gender and grade are reported in relation to healthy body mass ranges to assess the prevalence of under/overweight adolescents. 2) Perceptions of average male and female body masses are compared with actual average body masses at each school to assess the extent of misperception of body weight norms. 3) Studentsí subjective assessments of themselves as over/underweight are then compared to the objective standards. 4) Finally, discrepancies between actually being under/overweight and perceiving oneself to be under/over weight are assessed in relation to misperceptions of the actual peer norms. Implications for school health programs will be discussed.