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Quantifying elements of contemporary fat discourse: The development and validation of the Fat Attitudes Assessment Toolkit

Cain, Patricia Tess (2019) Quantifying elements of contemporary fat discourse: The development and validation of the Fat Attitudes Assessment Toolkit. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The majority of instruments designed to measure attitudes toward fatness and “obesity” were developed in the 1990s, a time when the “obesity epidemic” was gaining attention. As a consequence, they focus on assessing negative appraisals of fat people. While there is no doubt that negative attitudes underlie stigma and discrimination, this approach assesses only part of fat discourse. Recent times have seen mainstream fat discourse expand beyond anti-fat rhetoric and incorporate perspectives of activism, acceptance, and critical responses to the anti-“obesity” agenda. To reflect this maturation and align with more critical research agendas, an expanded approach to quantification is now needed. This thesis documents the development and validation of the Fat Attitudes Assessment Toolkit (FAAT), a new approach to measurement that responds to and represents contemporary fat discourse.

In developing the FAAT it was first necessary to identify the nature of contemporary fat discourse and current methods of measurement. To do this, I review key perspectives on fatness in academic and popular literature, as well as in social media news commentary. I also review methods of weight stigma intervention research, in order to uncover opportunities for construct measurement. Following this, popular validated measures of fat attitudes are qualitatively and systematically reviewed, so that I may draw attention to problematic aspects of current instruments. The development and validation process of the FAAT are then detailed, including subject matter expert review, exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, and establishing scale reliability and validity.

The FAAT quantifies endorsement of elements of current fat discourse including: empathy, attractiveness, injustice, health, size acceptance, complexity and responsibility. For stigma reduction research, this will enable more targeted questions to be asked and more nuanced results analysed. These outcomes will advance stigma reduction research and in turn influence policies and programs designed to reduce stigma and oppression.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Psychology, Counselling, Exercise Science and Chiropractic
Supervisor(s): Donaghue, Ngaire and Ditchburn, Graeme
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