Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Parham, Ellen S.||Hart, Maxine (Professor of home economics)

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Home Economics


Obesity; Nursing; Nurses


Attitudes towards obesity and other physical handicaps were studied among 150 subjects. They represented three levels of educational attainment in nursing— nursing students, registered nurse practitioners, and nursing instructors with a minimum of a baccalaureate degree. Four hypotheses were formulated to test if there were differences in measured preferences and attitudes towards obesity among the three nursing groups. An instrument was developed to measure the preferences held toward obesity when compared to other physical handicaps. The alternative choices for the eight situational questions were young women with crutches and a leg brace, facial disfigurement, wheelchair, and a missing right hand respectively. The respondents were asked to choose the picture that best described their preference for each of the situations. The instrument also measured agreement or disagreement with a set of attitude statements that have been reported in the literature as popularly held. The statements measured belief that obesity is a physical illness, that obesity is a mental illness, that obesity is caused by a lack of "moral fiber," that the outlook for treatment of obesity is favorable, and that of a generally pessimistic view of the obese state, and a belief that it is irreversible. Findings suggested that the preferences and attitudes did not differ significantly between groups. The pictured young women with the facial disfigurement or the crutches and leg brace were found to be preferred for all groups as a sister, best friend or head nurse. e pictured women in the wheelchair and the one with crutches d leg brace were chosen as preferred in the patient situation. The man in the wheelchair was least preferred by all groups as best friend, sister and head nurse. The obese woman was the least popular choice as a patient by all three groups of nurses. There appeared to be a statistically significant negative response towards the obese woman as compared to the other handicapped women. The section of the questionnaire that measured attitudes toward obesity revealed strong agreement or disagreement with many of the specific items. When grouped into subscore categories, however, the data did not indicate that there was significant difference in judgement among the three nursing groups. Suggestions were included for improvement of the experimental procedures, but it is unknown if improved procedures would have demonstrated differences. Observation did not reveal any particular pattern of difference of response between the groups even to specific questionnaire items. As there was considerable consensus among the three nursing groups as to the preferences held toward the different pictured handicaps for the various situations, levels of educational attainment did not seem to be a factor in selection. In no case was there a statistically significant difference between groups. In conclusion, this study identified many attitudes held by nurses toward obesity but did not indicate that educational preparation for nursing influenced the judgement process.


Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


v, 75 pages




Northern Illinois University

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