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Is Big Really Beautiful? Understanding Body Image Perceptions of African American Females

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Journal of Black Studies

Published online on


The purpose of this study was to obtain body image information from African American (AA) college-age women (age 18-25) from a historically Black college and/or university (HBCU) and a predominately White college (PWC) with regard to their body image, body shape, appearance, and related factors. Findings from this study will provide the health education profession with valuable information on body image from a cultural perspective of AA women. A one-way ANOVA was used to analyze comparisons between the two groups. Results from the Young Women’s Experiences with Body Weight and Shape were analyzed using five different factors: weight dissatisfaction, slimness as quality of life, interpersonal messages regarding slimness, rejecting the value of thinness, and valuing exercise. Significant differences were found with: weight dissatisfaction (p = .010), slimness as quality of life (p = .000), and interpersonal messages regarding slimness (p = .000). AA women at the HBCU were more satisfied with their body image on these three factors and similar to AA women at the PWC on two factors: rejecting the value of thinness (p = .229) and valuing exercise (p = .828). These findings will assist in developing programming based on racial differences and similarities.