Date of Award

Spring 5-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

Simone Camel


Today, body weight can be a sensitive topic, and a person’s insecurities and sensitivity to this topic may be rooted in their childhood experiences. Because of the sensitive nature of the weight issue, investigating early life experiences around familial weight and diet talk of young adults will provide information about their current feelings regarding weight satisfaction. Establishing the sources of this talk beyond that of parents and whether they affect later life and weight satisfaction has yet to be determined.

The purpose of this study is to determine if there is an association between familial weight and diet talk, its source and frequency, and weight and life satisfaction in college-age students (18-28 years of age).

This study utilized a cross-sectional online survey design with network sampling. The researcher-designed questionnaire included demographic items, the Satisfaction with Life validated scale, a researcher-developed Satisfaction with Weight scale, and self-reported height and weight. Participants were recruited via email through campus groups, classroom announcements by faculty members, and with posters/flyers around campus. All communications contained a link to the consent and questionnaire.

Responses from 249 participants from 16 different U.S. states were analyzed. The majority were female (68.3%) and identified as White, non-Hispanic (70.3%)with a mean age of 20.85 (SD=2.60) years. Participants (n=229) reported a mean household size of 4.72 persons (SD=1.44; range of 2 to 12). Most lived with parents and siblings (79.5%).

Pearson’s correlations (two-tailed) explored the relationships among the SWLS,

SWWS, and BMI. There was a significant positive correlation between SWLS and

SWWS, r (214) =0.460, p < 0.01; a significant negative correlation between SWWS and

BMI, r (214) = -0.363, p <0.01; and no significance was found between SWLS and BMI.

When asked whether participants had experienced food intake or diet comments while

growing up, 65.5% responded “yes”, 24.9% responded “no”, and 4.8% did not remember.

Frequency of experiencing these comments were reported to be: several times per month (18.5%), 2 to 3 times per week (13.3%), once per week (11.2%), during holidays and celebrations (9.6%), four to six times per week (6%), and daily (4.8%). When asked whether these comments felt positive or negative, 39% of these participants reported the comments were both positive and negative, 18.9% responded that they were negative, and 6.4% positive.

To compare the presence of body weight comments with the SWLS and SWWS, independent samples t-tests were calculated which resulted in a significant difference between those who did and did not experience body weight comments. The mean SWLS score for those experiencing body weight comments (M = 23.82, SD = 6.35) was lower than the score for those not experiencing comments (M=26.60, SD = 5.56); t (218) = -3.142, p = 0.002. The mean SWWS score for those experiencing body weight comments (M = 19.94, SD = 7.38) was lower than the score for those not experiencing comments (M = 25.03, SD = 5.94); t (212) = -5.40, p <0.01. Therefore, those who experienced body weight–related comments had lower satisfaction with life and lower satisfaction with weight scores.

Independent samples t-tests were conducted to determine whether the presence alone of body weight or food intake/diet related comments resulted in significant differences between SWLS and SWWS scores for friends or teachers; no significant differences were found.

Data analysis results demonstrated a significant negative correlation between weight talk and both satisfaction scales. A significant difference in the mean scores for the SWLS and the SWWS was found if body weight comments were experienced.

Findings from this study may begin to fill that gap by contributing to the literature to and enable a better understanding of the dynamics that contribute to a person’s weight satisfaction and life satisfaction. This is the first study known to this researcher that attempted to gather comments from extended family, friends, and teachers. Future investigations are needed to further explore grandparent interactions.