Honey, do I look fat? Perceptions of spouses’ weight and weight concerns predict marital relationship quality

Anna K. Hochgraf, Susan M. McHale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The majority of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese, and yet Western ideals of beauty include low body fat composition as a component of physical attractiveness. In turn, perceived discrepancies between actual and ideal body shape and weight mean that many adults experience weight concerns—and they also may be dissatisfied with their spouse’s weight. This study examined whether weight concerns were linked to romantic relationship quality, an important domain of adult development. Specifically, we applied the Actor–Partner Interdependence Model to test how wives’ and husbands’ weight concerns and perceptions of their spouses’ overweight contributed to their own and their spouse’s reports of marital satisfaction and conflict over time. The sample was 197 heterosexual married couples (Mage = 40.85 and 42.81 years for wives and husbands, respectively; Mlength of marriage = 18.6 years at Time 1) with children, who participated in a short-term longitudinal study of family relationships and adolescent development. Two-way interactions between partner perceptions of spouses’ weight and gender indicated that husbands’ perceptions that their wives were overweight predicted decreases in wives’ marital satisfaction and increases in wives’ reports of marital conflict across 1 year. In contrast, wives’ perceptions of husbands’ weight were not associated with changes in husbands’ marital satisfaction or conflict. A two-way interaction between actor and partner weight concerns indicated that individuals reported more marital conflict when there was a discrepancy between their own and their spouse’s weight concerns. Finally, a two-way interaction between actor and partner perceptions of spouse’s weight indicated that, for individuals whose spouses rated them as below ideal weight, their perceptions of the spouse’s overweight predicted their own lower marital satisfaction. Findings suggest that concerns about one’s own and one’s spouse’s weight have negative ramifications for marital relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)865-884
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Volume37
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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