Enduring Stigma? Obesity Histories and Romantic Relationship Involvement in the Transition to Adulthood

Hilary M. Dotson, University of South Florida
Elizabeth Vaquera, University of South Florida

Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (N=8,092) we examine how obesity in adolescence (Wave I) and early adulthood (Wave III) might be associated with romantic relationship involvement (i.e., married, cohabiting, dating, single) in the late-transition to adulthood period (Wave IV). Counter to expectations, findings from multivariate tests suggest that histories of obesity are not directly associated with type of romantic relationship involvement; however, common pathways to obesity, including racial/ethnic minority identification and being female, are strongly and directly predictive. Our findings counter most of the research and lay-wisdom on the direct social stigma of obesity, demonstrating that obesity is not directly associated with romantic relationship involvement. We argue that obesity is indirectly associated with type of romantic relationship involvement through other health, demographic, and social channels commonly associated with relationships and obesity. Later versions of the paper will include a detail analysis of these suggested associations.

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Presented in Poster Session 9: Children and Youth; Data and Methods