Document Type



Public Health

First Advisor's Name

Dr. Robert Malow

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Dr. Jessy Devieux

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Dr. Luther Brewster

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Dr. Yolanda R. Cal

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


body mass index, intimacy, weight loss, gender, overweight, obesity, sexuality

Date of Defense



Issues of body image and ability to achieve intimacy are connected to body weight, yet remain largely unexplored and have not been evaluated by gender. The underlying purpose of this research was to determine if avoidant attitudes and perceptions of one’s body may hold implications toward its use in intimate interactions, and if an above average body weight would tend to increase this avoidance. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES, 1999-2002) finds that 64.5% of US adults are overweight, with 61.9% of women and 67.2% of men. The increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity in men and women shows no reverse trend, nor have prevention and treatment proven effective in the long term. The researcher gathered self-reported age, gender, height and weight data from 55 male and 58 female subjects (determined by a prospective power analysis with a desired medium effect size (r =.30) to determine body mass index (BMI), determining a mean age of 21.6 years and mean BMI of 25.6. Survey instruments consisted of two scales that are germane to the variables being examined. They were (1) Descutner and Thelen of the University of Missouri’s (1991) Fear-of-Intimacy scale and (2) Rosen, Srebnik, Saltzberg, and Wendt’s (1991) Body Image Avoidance Questionnaire. Results indicated that as body mass index increases, fear of intimacy increases (p<0.05) and that as body mass index increases, body image avoidance increases (p<0.05). The relationship that as body image avoidance increases, fear of intimacy increases was not supported, but approached significance at (p<0.07). No differences in these relationships were determined between gender groups. For age, the only observed relationship was that of a difference between scores for age groups [18 to 22 (group 1) and ages 23 to 34 (group 2)] for the relationship of body image avoidance and fear of intimacy (p<0.02). The results suggest that the relationship of body image avoidance and fear of intimacy, as well as age, bear consideration toward the escalating prevalence of overweight and obesity. An integrative approach to body weight that addresses issues of body image and intimacy may prove effective in prevention and treatment.





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