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Department of Psychology at Oklahoma State University

Psychology student leads research into how parents of higher-weight children are judged

Friday, March 3, 2023

Media Contact: Elizabeth Gosney | CAS Marketing and Communications Manager | 405-744-7497 |

Oklahoma State University clinical psychology doctoral student Devanshi Patel and psychology assistant professor Jaimie Arona Krems, Ph.D., recently published a peer-reviewed article exploring parental blame and judgment over children’s heavier weights.

“Devanshi is the first author of the study,” Krems explained. “In fact, I believe that she is the first graduate student in our department to be the first author of a Psychological Science publication. She took charge of this study. It was exciting to see her bright mind at work.”

Patel explained that courts in the U.S. and internationally have removed children with obesity from parental custody until those children can maintain healthy weights. In their research, Patel and Krems first looked at qualitative reports from parents of children with higher weights, suggesting they are assessed as bad parents. Patel and Krems developed and tested a model where people attributed children’s excess weight to those children’s parents, and this attribution of blame drove stigma toward parents of heavier children.

“My findings are among the first to describe and explain stigma toward the growing demographic of parents of children with ‘obesity,’ which has major real-world implications — for example, family separation and healthcare outcomes,” Patel said. “This research might also illuminate the psychology underlying stigma toward parents of children with other potentially stigma-evoking identities.”

Increasing awareness about weight stigma might improve outcomes for parents in this situation, Patel and Krems said. But the researchers added that their work is only the beginning of understanding the psychology of stigma toward parents of children with obesity.

“Weight-related stigma is pervasive, painful to experience, and the stigma itself — over and above a person’s weight — is associated with negative outcomes, like increased risk of mortality,” Patel said.

Patel and Krems' paper, which was published in February on The Conversation, utilized data from a broader program on research conducted by several OSU faculty and students. Their research, “People blame and judge parents for children's heavier weights,” can be read here.

Story By: Allie Putman, CAS student intern |

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