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, especially across racial lines. The claims of most studies suggest that African-American women generally have a greater tolerance or acceptability for higher body weight. In addition, African-American women are also thought to place less importance on body size in the scheme of their overall body image, and there are more likely to be satisfied if they are at a higher body weight, and still regard themselves as attractive. Research not only confirms these statements, but also draws attention to other important, culturally- relevant factors, such as age in relation to other cultural forces such as, different attitudes and behaviors that shape the body images of African-American women. Finally, since research shows that body image is an important aspect in the etiology of eating disorders and obesity, its influence and the cultural forces and components behind it should be taken into account in treatment and for future research.
According to Altabe’s (1996) study, there are differences in body image that can be measured through both quantitative and qualitative means. The participant in the study were volunteer college students at the University of South Florida who were recruited from minority student organizations (Black Student Union, Asian Students Association, etc.) and received extra credit points in exchange for participation. 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...