• Do weight status and weight perception predict academic acheivement in adolescents? A longitudinal analysis of the COMPASS study.

      Livermore, Maram; Applied Health Sciences Program
      Abstract Background: Recent evidence suggests perceptions of overweight account for the psychosocial consequences typically associated with obesity. Previous research indicates the presence of an obesity achievement gap, yet limited research has explored weight perception in association with academic achievement. Previous studies have focused on grades and degree attainment, without consideration of student aspirations and perceived support and ability to achieve higher levels of education. This thesis examined how Body Mass Index (BMI) classification and weight perception relate to academic performance and postsecondary aspirations and expectations in a large cohort of Canadian adolescents. Additionally, the interaction between BMI status and perceptions of weight was examined in relation to academic achievement outcomes. Methods: Two-year survey data from 25,673 grade 9-12 students attending the 122 Canadian schools that participated in Year 6 (2017/2018) and Year 7 (2018/2019) of the COMPASS study were used. Generalized estimating equation models were used to examine associations between students’ BMI classification and weight perception and their math and English/French course grades and post-secondary academic aspirations and expectations. All models were stratified by gender and adjusted for sociodemographic variables and school clustering. Results: Boys and girls with BMI of obesity and missing BMI classification reported lower grades and post-secondary aspirations and expectations when compared to those with Normal BMI. Similarly, boys and girls with overweight BMI reported lower math and language grades than those with Normal-weight BMIs. Relative to their peers with normal-weight BMI and “about right” perceptions, those with overweight perceptions and BMI of overweight/obesity reported lower academic grades and post-secondary aspirations and expectations. There was evidence of an additive effect for girls and boys with overweight perceptions and BMI of overweight/obesity on academic outcomes. About right perceptions of weight were protective against lower math grades for boys and girls with overweight/obesity BMI. Results varied by gender and across academic outcomes. Conclusions: Overall, this thesis demonstrates that an obesity achievement gap remains when controlling for students’ perceptions of their weight. Perceptions of overweight had a detrimental effect on academic performance and aspirations/expectations for students with BMI classifications of overweight and obesity, as well as grade outcomes for those with BMI of normal-weight. Results suggest that barriers to academic success exist for students with larger bodies. Future studies should explore the role of internalized and externalized weight bias.