Essay on Body Image in African American Women

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Body Image in African American Women

Body image is an important facet in understanding the phenomenon of eating disorders. Body image concerns are important in the etiology and treatment of eating disorders and obesity (Smith, Thompson, Raczynski, and Hilner, 1997; Thompson, 1997). The construct of body image reflects the level of satisfaction one feels regarding his or her body. Body image is a multidimensional construct. It involves race, socioeconomic status, age, as well as, perceptual and attitudinal components. For this reason, research has been done to dispel the myth that all women have a negative body image. Rather, as has been shown, there are definite differences in the perception of body image and self-concept,
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The sample consisted of 150 males and 185 females, and the average age was 21. Ethnicity was determined by self-identification.

The measures used were the administration of the Body Dissatisfaction scale of the Eating Disorders Inventory, as well as, the Figure Rating Scale. This scale involves the participant looking at a series of silhouettes ranging in size, and asking them to choose which one best represents how they look and how they wished they looked. The discrepancy in these two indicates the level of body dissatisfaction. Participants were also subjected to several questionnaires that measure body image. Questions were included concerning cultural expectations and idealizations, as well as, physical attractiveness, and the importance of physical appearance (Altabe, 1998).

In the figure rating discrepancy, African-American women showed less dissatisfaction than Caucasians and Hispanic-Americans. In the non-weight related body image tests African-American women had more positive cognitions than all other groups, and overall, African-Americans had a higher rating of self-attractiveness. The qualitative analysis of data points out that height was a quality desired or valued by all groups, and all women wanted to be thinner.

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