Body Image Across Cultures and Ethnic Groups

Sammanfattning: Studying body image across cultures and ethnic groups is essential if we are to understand the cultural framework that influences how people view and feel about their bodies. The objective of Study I was to cross-culturally examine differences in body satisfaction, dieting and weight loss attempts, and perceived body shape among 13-year-old Argentinean (n=358) and Swedish (n=874) adolescents. Results showed that Argentinean and Swedish adolescents did not differ on body satisfaction, although girls in both countries displayed greater body dissatisfaction than did boys. Dieting and weight loss attempts were more prevalent among the Argentinean adolescents and did not appear to depend on overweight or perception of body shape. The samples also differed in their perceptions of body shape and the effect those perceptions had on their body satisfaction, with Swedish adolescents suffering more from negative body shape perceptions. The aims of Study II were twofold. A first aim was to describe the existing literature regarding cultural and ethnic differences in body dissatisfaction. Previous studies were organized according to general patterns found in the existing literature; three patterns of cultural differences and three patterns of ethnic differences. The second aim of Study II was to illuminate some of the specific problems that studies of cultural and ethnic differences in body dissatisfaction deal with and to provide suggestions for improvement. Problems that were highlighted include the lack of studies controlling for variables that may underlie the differences found and the need to use measures that appropriately capture body dissatisfaction in each specific cultural and ethnic group. It is also discussed whether US participants – the subjects most frequently examined within this field – is a good reference group to which other cultures can be compared. The overall picture of this thesis is that the cultural environment in which people live highly influences people’s body image. Future challenges involve achieving a more in-depth and varied picture of the body image concerns experienced by different groups, and a fuller understanding of what lies behind the differences (and similarities) that are found

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