Semester

Spring

Date of Graduation

2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Type

MA

College

Eberly College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Sociology and Anthropology

Committtee Chair

Karen G. Weiss

Committee Co-Chair

Lisa Dilks

Committee Member

Amy Hirshman

Abstract

According to the bullying and harassment literature, over 50 percent of adolescents reported that they were targets of harassment at least once a month. A major gap within this literature is that most of these studies focus predominantly on adolescents and none focuses on older cohorts. To date only five studies have focused on college populations, but none focus on weight specifically as a factor. Although many individuals may disagree, weight-based harassment is comparable to harassment based on race and sexual orientation and affects victims just as negatively. Therefore, it is time to address the elephant in the room and to explore what weight-based harassment looks like on college campuses. The current study conducted the first descriptive study of weight-based harassment by administering a questionnaire to a random sample of 8,000 undergraduate students attending a large, north-central, land grant, University during the fall of 2013. Analysis of descriptive statistics and bivariate analyses show that students of all sizes are targeted for their weight. Results also found that most incidents of weight-based harassment occur within the context of the party-subculture in hotspot locations where alcohol is involved. The current study also found targets either avoided or stopped going to certain locations because of being harassed. The results of the current study fill the gaps and extend knowledge of bullying, harassment, and Fat Studies literature. The current study found that weight-based harassment is a serious problem with serious consequences that not only merits the attention of researchers, but also deserves the recognition as a legitimate form of harassment and prejudice. The findings of the current study will aide researchers of bullying, harassment, and weight bias in future research and could be used by Universities to inform policy change.

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