Perceptions of body image among low socioeconomic status African American mothers and their daughters in Mobile, Alabama

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University of Alabama Libraries

The anthropology of body image in African American communities has presented ambiguous perceptions of body image satisfaction. Many discoveries claim that body image satisfaction exists widely in these communities, while other findings note that political and economic forces dictate how African Americans treat their bodies, especially those who are of low socioeconomic status. Armed with this information, it was hypothesized that mothers and daughters in low-income neighborhoods of Mobile, Alabama would express body image dissatisfaction. In addition, this project focused on how low socioeconomic status and consumption patterns are associated with body image. Ethnographic interviews were conducted to present a qualitative description of the perceptions of body image and revealed that nine subdomains characterize this domain. Cultural consensus, cultural consonance and statistical analyses provided quantitative results and show that mothers and daughters shared a cultural model of the subdomain "a girl in the neighborhood who is happy with the way that she looks." Statistical analyses document a relationship between consonance scores and a standardized body image instrument, the Body Investment Scale. This finding indicated that daughters with low consonance scores would display negative body image and be more destructive toward their bodies. The Body Rating Scale showed that almost three-fourths of the sample expressed body dissatisfaction. It is hoped that this information could be used to unravel the ambiguity presented in the literature and possibly improve service programs for these young girls in addressing body image and obesity.

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Anthropology, Medical and Forensic, Cultural anthropology