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Associations with Obesity Bias in Physical Education Teachers
Paper presentation at the 2014 American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance National Convention (2014)
  • Paul B. Rukavina, Adelphi University
  • Jody L. Langdon, Georgia Southern University
  • Christy Greenleaf, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Penny Portman, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

Background/Purpose: Physical education (PE) in-service and pre-service teachers are biased toward overweight, and often the strongest bias is related to the overweight person’s outward appearance and personal control (e.g., Rukavina et al., 2010). The fitness and sport industries often promote unrealistic bodies stressing that a slender or muscular body is good, and an “out of shape” body is bad. Little research has been completed related to how one internalizes these messages and the goals set to achieve these ideals, and how this related to obesity bias. The purpose is to examine the impact of body image ideals and achievement goals on both pre-service and in-service teachers’ obesity bias.

Method: Pre-service PE teachers (N = 199) from six universities (115 males, 84 females, Mage = 19.89 years) and in-service teachers (N= 102) from around the US (29 males, 73 females, Mage = 46.35 years) completed a demographic questionnaire along with the Socio-Cultural Attitudes toward Appearance Questionnaire (SATAQ-3; subscales: Athlete, General Internalization, Pressures, and Information), the Modified Task and Ego Orientation in Sport Questionnaire (TEOSQ), and Anti-fat Attitude Test (AFAT; subscales: Romantic, Weight Control/Blame, and Character Disparagement.

Analysis/Results: Separate multiple regressions were run on the pre-service and in-service PE teachers; one for each of the AFAT subscales. Fisher’s Z test was used to compare the influence of goal orientations and sociocultural attitudes on each of the anti-fat attitudes between pre-service and in-service teachers. For Romantic beliefs among in-service teachers, the General and Pressures subscales significantly contributed to the model, explaining 6.1% of the variance. For pre-service teachers, 16.4% of the variance in romantic beliefs was accounted for by Ego orientation, Pressures, and General. Character beliefs for in-service teachers were significantly influenced by Task orientation and General, accounting for 10% of the variance. Task and Ego orientation were both predictors of Character among pre-service teachers, explaining a total of 8.9% of the variance between them. For Weight Control/Blame among in-service teachers, General was the only predictor, accounting for 3.6% of the variance. Weight Control/Blame among pre-service teachers, was different, with ego and task orientation accounting for 12% of the variance. Fisher’s Z tests found no significant differences in prediction models between in-service and pre-service teachers in the three constructs of obesity bias.

Conclusions: General internalization of sociocultural appearance ideals contributed to anti-fat attitudes, especially in in-service teachers. Also, ego orientation emerged as more important to the relationship to anti-fat attitudes for pre-service teachers.

  • Physical education,
  • Teacher biases,
  • Overweight students,
  • Obese students,
  • Obesity bias,
  • Body image,
  • Achievement goals
Publication Date
April 4, 2014
Citation Information
Paul B. Rukavina, Jody L. Langdon, Christy Greenleaf, and Penny Portman. "Associations with Obesity Bias in Physical Education Teachers" Paper presentation at the 2014 American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance National Convention. St. Louis, MO. Apr. 2014.