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Date of Award
Dissertation (On-Campus Access Only)
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Katherine Elder, PhD
Although there is not one singular cause for eating disorders, research has indicated that body image dissatisfaction is one of the most well-established contributing factors to the development of eating disorder symptomatology (National Eating Disorders Association [NEDA], 2018; Stice & Shaw, 2002). Risk factors for body image dissatisfaction can involve a range of biological, psychological, and sociocultural issues (NEDA, 2018). The majority of research on body image satisfaction levels has focused on females of the dominant culture (i.e., heterosexual, cisgender, Caucasian, etc.; Cash & Smolak, 2011). However, recognition of the importance of examining body image dissatisfaction among marginalized groups has increased in recent years (Yean et al., 2013). One of these marginalized groups that has been underrepresented in the literature on body image is the LGB population (Grogan, 2008). Research findings have demonstrated varying results regarding differences in prevalence rates of body image dissatisfaction between LGB and heterosexual individuals (Cochran, Sullivan, & Mays, 2014; Grogan, 2008; Morrison, Morrison, & Sager, 2004). This study sought to fill the gap of limited research on body image satisfaction among the LGB population by exploring differences between cisgender LGB and heterosexual populations. Although individuals who identify as transgender and non-binary were intended to be included in the current study, there was not a large enough sample size of transgender and non-binary participants at the time of analysis. Therefore, the current sample (N = 296) comprised of individuals who specifically identified as cisgender females and males. A unique quality of this study is that all participants identified as a cisgender female or male, which is not apparent in most established research on body image when comparing females and males. Primary hypotheses included: (1) lesbian and bisexual cisgender females would report significantly higher levels of body image satisfaction and body image-related quality of life than heterosexual cisgender females; (2) gay and bisexual cisgender males would endorse significantly lower levels of body image satisfaction and body image-related quality of life than heterosexual cisgender males; and (3) heterosexual, cisgender females would endorse significantly lower levels of body image satisfaction and body image-related quality of life compared to heterosexual cisgender males. All hypotheses also postulated that groups endorsing higher levels of body image satisfaction would endorse lower levels of depressive symptoms. Findings partially supported the hypotheses of this study in that gender moderated the results of the third hypothesis. Specifically, heterosexual cisgender females reported higher levels of body image dissatisfaction than heterosexual cisgender males, but not poorer body image-related quality of life. Depression was significantly correlated to body image-related quality of life for both heterosexual cisgender male and female participants, but it was not associated with specific levels of body image satisfaction, per se. Although sexual orientation did not appear to be significantly related to levels of body image satisfaction, medium to large effect sizes suggest that a larger sample size may have identified a more substantial difference in body image satisfaction between individuals who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual as compared to heterosexual cisgender females and males. Additionally, opposing predictions from the first hypothesis, heterosexual cisgender females’ mean scores on body image questionnaires were higher (indicating greater body image satisfaction) than lesbian and bisexual cisgender females. Overall, greater depressive symptoms were generally correlated with lower levels of body image satisfaction and body image-related quality of life with all groups.
Stalboerger, Allie K. (2019). The Relationship Between Body Image and Sexual Orientation: A Comparison of Body Image Satisfaction in A Sexual Orientation Minority and Heterosexual Cisgender Sample (Doctoral dissertation, Pacific University). Retrieved from:
Available for download on Sunday, July 04, 2021