Thinness or proportion? Cultural differences in body image dissatisfaction

Rebecca Ann Wagner, Tennessee State University


The purpose of this study was to better understand sociocultural factors that affect body image and disordered eating among African American and Caucasian women. More specifically, this study was designed to assess how one's social cultural attitudes about appearance affect an individuals body image and dissatisfaction which may lead to eating attitudes regarding thinness or the proportion of one's body. Participants included a total of 233 African American and Caucasian American female students at several universities and colleges. Five measures were used, including a demographic questionnaire, the Sociocultural Attitudes Towards Appearance Questionnaire, the Multidimensional Body-Self Relations Questionnaire, the Body Esteem Scale, and the Eating Attitudes Test-26. Data analyses included one Multiple Analysis of Variance, and five individual Analyses of Variance. Results from the study indicated that African American participants reported significantly fewer endorsements of sociocultural attitudes and less awareness about the importance of their appearance compared to Caucasian participants. African American participants also reported significantly greater body satisfaction and more positive feelings about their body than Caucasian American participants. Furthermore, African Americans participants reported overall having stronger positive feelings when asked about specific body part. In addition, results from the study demonstrated that the African American and Caucasian American participants did not significantly differ in their level of preoccupation with wanting to change a portion of their body. However, African American participants have significantly more positive feelings specifically about their weight than Caucasian American participants. Additionally, a greater percentage of Caucasian American participants reported currently dieting as compared to African American participants. The study also indicated that African American participants reported significantly fewer disordered eating symptomatology than the Caucasian American participants. Moreover, Caucasian American participants reported engaging in more exercise and a greater percentage said that they were currently on a diet than African American participants. Finally, results indicated significant interactions among all the variables.

Subject Area

African Americans|Psychotherapy|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Rebecca Ann Wagner, "Thinness or proportion? Cultural differences in body image dissatisfaction" (2008). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3324713.