Social comparison processes, perceptions of responsibility, and outcomes for children's health
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Childhood obesity rates are increasing in the United States, partly because adults, especially parents, are unable to recognize overweight and obesity in children. This study used social comparison processes and personal beliefs about the prevalence/causes/consequences of obesity to address three purposes: (1) to predict how parents determine their child's weight status and their intentions for their children's weight based on social comparisons; (2) to test a model of attribution of responsibility (AOR) for parents and non-parents to predict perceptions of parents' responsibility for children's weight; and (3) to develop a model to examine how parents and non-parents judge children's weight and to predict intentions to control children's weight. For the first purpose, an experimental manipulation provided parents with upward or downward comparisons that were either proximal or distal to their children, and results reveal that parents are less accurate in judging their child's weight when given an upward comparison than when given a control comparison. For the second and third purposes, participants completed the revised AOR model and a number of other established and researcher-generated measures. Only perceptions of causality predicted participants' attributions of parents' responsibility for children's weight. Structural Equation Modeling was used to construct the final model. Results reveal that the models used to predict the intentions to control children's weight were very similar, and unlike that used to predict accuracy of judgments of children's weight. This research was conducted in the hopes of potentially increasing recognition of overweight and obesity in children to slow rising obesity rates.