Jessica Perkins, M.S. candidate, Dept of Population and Internatinoal Health
Harvard School of Public Health
H. Wesley Perkins, Ph.D., Dept. of Anthropology and Sociology
David W. Craig, Ph.D., Dept. of Chemistry
Hobart & William Smith Colleges
Over 40,000 secondary students from more than 50 schools in nine regionally diverse states have been surveyed using an online instrument measuring actual and perceived norms between 2004-2008. Measures of perceived weight of both genders in one’s own grade, self-assessed weight, and body mass risk are examined. There is a wide discrepancy between actual school norms and students’ perceptions of weight norms among males and females in all school contexts. Students who are at risk for overweight conditions and obesity (as well as underweight and very underweight conditions) have the largest misperceptions of the actual norm. Examining variation in weight perceptions by school composition and context is also addressed.