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Body Image Phenomenology Across Cultures: An Empirical Study of European American and American Indian Women

14 April 2006


The present study examined differences in body image perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors between a sample of 26 American Indian and 29 European American college women. Participants' completed a demographic information form, the Multidimensional Body-Self Relations Questionnaire (MBSRQ), and The Figure Rating Scale. The relationship between ethnicity and body image measures was tested while controlling for Body Mass Index (BMI). Significant differences occurred for only 1 of the 7 outcome variables. American Indian women reported higher self-classified weights than European Americans, though this may reflect real differences as American Indian women were also found to weigh significantly more on average than the European American women. Thus, initial findings from the study did not support the hypothesis that American Indian women would show stronger body image than European American women. However, correlations appeared significantly stronger between BMI and 2 outcome variables (i.e., Body Areas Satisfaction and Overweight Preoccupation) for the European American women, but not for the American Indian women. That is, as BMI increased, body satisfaction decreased and weight preoccupation increased for the European American group at a significantly higher rate. Such findings offer the possibility that the American Indian group held perceptions and/or attitudes towards their bodies that were more accepting, though they were not necessarily more satisfied. Given the mixed findings as well as the limitations of the present study, more research is needed to better understand the body image experiences of American Indian females, especially given the dearth of research for this population.


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