Measuring up : an examination of the impact of racial identity schema, feminist attitudes, and socio-economic status on body image attitudes among Black women
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Black women in the United States belong to several demographic groups that are marginalized and devalued by society (Fleming, 1983; Helms, 1979; Hargrove, 1999). Membership in marginalized groups (i.e., race, gender, or class) and feelings about belonging to such groups may have a significant impact on the identity development of Black women and their body image satisfaction (Turner, 1982; Helms & Richardson, 1997). For groups experiencing multiple sources of oppression, multiple factors should be examined while exploring body image satisfaction (Thomas, Witherspoon, & Speight, 2004). This study examines body image and racial body attitudes of Black women through the constructs of racial identity, feminist attitudes, and socio-economic status (SES). Using several sampling methods, the researcher recruited 164 participants from the student population at the University of Texas at Austin and from predominately-Black local churches. Four hierarchical regression procedures assessed the impact of the predictor variables (racial identity, feminist attitudes, and SES) on the outcome variables (body image and racial body image) as they were added to the equation. Results indicated that racial identity was not predicative of body image attitudes; however, racial identity was predictive of racial body image attitudes. Feminist attitudes did not predict body image, but did predict racial body image. SES was divided into two variables--income, and racial diversity composition of high schools attended by participants. Income levels were predictive of neither body image nor racial body image among this sample of Black women. However, the racial diversity composition of high schools attended by these participants did significantly affect racial body image. Additionally, racial diversity of high schools significantly moderated the relationship between racial identity and racial body image. This study suggests that racial identity and racial diversity of environment is predictive of racial body image. Furthermore, racial features are more salient to Black women and may not be captured on the frequently used body image attitudes measures.