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A Meta-Analysis Of Heavyweight And Self-Esteem

Carol T. Miller, Kathryn T. Downey

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This study is a meta-analysis of the relation of heavyweight and self-esteem. We examined this relation in studies thatfocused on participants' actual body weight (assessed by physical measures or self-reports of weight and height) and studies thatfocused on self-perceived degree of heavyweight or body dissatisfaction. The overall mean effect size was moderate (r = -.18, d = -.36), with lower self-esteem associated with heavier weight. The correlation between self-esteem and weight was higher for studies of self-perceived weight than for studies of actual weight. Consistent with predictions about cultural and group differences, effect sizes were smaller for low socioeconomic status (SES) samples, ethnic minority samples, and nonclinical samples than for high SES, nonminority, and clinical samples, respectively. In addition, effect sizes were larger for women than for men and for high school and college students than for children. Discussion centered on cultural, group, and individual differences that may influence the consequences on self-esteem of violating standards for appropriate body weight.