Perceived and Actual Weight Stigma Among Romantic Couples

Brian Collisson, David Rusbasan


According to research on weight bias, relationship stigma may be greater among romantic couples comprised of at least one overweight partner, as compared to two healthy-weight partners. However, comparison theories predict that the stigma of being overweight may be greater among mixed-weight couples (i.e., romantic partners with dissimilar body mass indexes; BMI) than matched-weight couples (e.g., similarly overweight partners). To test these rival hypotheses, we assessed perceived and actual stigma experienced by mixed-weight and matched-weight couples. In two studies, people inferred (Study 1) or reported the actual amount (Study 2) of relational stigma and weight-related discomfort experienced by a healthy-weight/overweight person in a mixed/matched-weight relationship. Supporting the weight bias hypothesis, people inferred overweight people and their partners experience greater stigma and weight-related discomfort (Study 1). However, only overweight people in a matched-weight, as compared to mixed-weight, relationships actually reported greater relational stigma and weight-related discomfort (Study 2).


matched-weight; mixed-weight; relational stigma; weight-bias; romantic couples

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