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EATING DISORDERS AMONG LATINAS:
EXAMINING THE APPLICABILITY OF OBJECTIFICATION THEORY
GLORIA M. MONTES DE OCA
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Gloria M. Montes de Oca
This document is dedicated to my two mamis, Hilaria and Wilma Garcia, who could not
witness this accomplishment personally, though they surely witnessed it in spirit.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my family, friends, and colleagues for
all their support and encouragement. I am very grateful to several friends that helped me
to collect data by allowing me access to their resources and contacts. I especially want to
thank Maricela Alvarado, who helped me collect the bulk of the data for this project. I
would also like to acknowledge my dissertation committee, a group of very strong and
accomplished academic women that are an inspiration. I am particularly grateful to my
dissertation committee chair, Bonnie Moradi, Ph.D., who was very helpful by providing
me positive and constructive feedback throughout this process.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iv
L IST O F T A B L E S ............................................... ....................... .......... vii
LIST OF FIGURES ............ ....... ......... .................. viii
ABSTRACT .............. ................. .......... .............. ix
1 IN TRODU CTION ................................................. ...... .................
2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE .................................... .......................... ........ 10
Objectification Theory: A Sociocultural Explanation for Eating Disorders .............12
Empirical Research on Objectification Theory .......................................................14
Applying Objectification Theory to Latinas............................................................ 26
Acculturation and Internalization of Cultural Beauty Standards Among Latinas......28
Purpose of the Present Study ...................................... ............ ....... .............. .38
3 M E T H O D .............................................................................4 0
P a rtic ip a n ts ........................................................................................................... 4 0
P ro c e d u re ................................ ................. ...................................................4 2
M e a su re s ................................ ....................................................4 3
Self-Obj ectification ................................. ........................................ 44
B o d y S h a m e ................................................................................................... 4 6
Eating Disorder Symptoms.................. ............. ........49
Internalization of Cultural Beauty Standards ........................................... 50
Acculturation ........... ......... 5..... ................51
A cculturative Stress................................................... 52
D em graphics ............................................ 53
4 R E S U L T S .............................................................................5 4
P relim in ary A n aly ses .............................................................................. 54
Descriptive Statistics .......................................................55
Interrelations Among Variables of Interest ..........................................................57
H y p o th e sis 1 ................................................................5 7
H y p oth esis 2 ................................................................5 7
H y p o th e sis 3 ................................................................5 8
H y p oth esis 4 ................................................................5 8
Path Analyses...................... .................................. 59
Test of Originally Hypothesized M odel ........................................ ............. 59
Modified Model Including Acculturative Stress ..................................... 60
Testing Significance of M ediations.................................... ....................61
Summary of Findings .............. ................... ............................. 62
5 D IS C U S S IO N ......... ............. ........... .... ........ ............... ................64
Limitations and Future Directions .............................................. 70
Im plications for Practice........................ .. ........... ........................... ............... 73
APPENDIX. DEMOGRAPHIC QUESTIONS ...................................... ............... 74
L IST O F R E F E R E N C E S ........................ .. ...................................................................76
B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E TCH ..................................................................... ..................84
4-1. Summary statistics and partial correlations among variables of interest with age
and BM I controlled ............................................................. 63
LIST OF FIGURES
2-1. Hypothesized model of objectification theory and acculturation links to eating
disorder sym ptom in L atinas.......................................................... ............... 39
4-1. Model 1, controlling for BMI and age, with standardized path coefficients
sh ow n ................................................................................63
4-2. Model 2, controlling for BMI and age, with standardized path coefficients............63
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
EATING DISORDERS AMONG LATINAS:
EXAMINING THE APPLICABILITY OF OBJECTIFICATION THEORY
Gloria M. Montes de Oca
Chair: Bonnie Moradi
Major Department: Psychology
This study evaluated a model of objectification theory and other sociocultural
variables as they apply to understanding eating disorder symptoms among Latina women.
Objectification theory proposes that because women are embedded within sexually
objectifying cultural contexts, they learn to self-objectify, or view themselves from an
outsider's perspective as objects. Self-objectification then purportedly leads to increased
body shame and vulnerability to eating disorder symptomatology as well as other mental
health concerns in women. Prior research on eating disorder symptoms among Latinas
indicates that acculturation, acculturative stress, and internalization of cultural standards
of beauty that promote thinness in women may be additional important variables in
understanding eating disorder symptomatolgy among Latinas. This study examined
potential direct and indirect links among acculturation, acculturative stress,
internalization of cultural beauty standards, self-objectification, body shame, and eating
disorder symptoms in a sample of 112 Latinas.
Path analyses revealed that internalization of cultural beauty standards, self-
objectification, acculturative stress, and body shame all were related uniquely and
significantly to eating disorder symptoms. In addition, self-objectification and body
shame both partially mediated the relation between internalization of cultural beauty
standards and eating disorder symptoms. Body shame also partially mediated the link
between self-objectification and eating disorder symptoms. Although no relationship was
found between acculturation and any of the other variables of interest, acculturative stress
was related significantly and uniquely to both body shame and eating disorder symptoms.
The link from acculturative stress to eating disorder symptoms was also partially
mediated by body shame. The results indicated that objectification theory, along with the
relevant variables of internalization of cultural beauty standards and acculturative stress,
may be applied to understand eating disorder symptoms among Latinas. Implications of
findings and directions for future research are discussed.
Eating disorders are significantly more prevalent among women than men, as well
as among Western and industrialized nations than less developed nations (American
Psychiatric Association [APA], 2000; Pate, Pumariega, Hester, & Garner, 1992), though
they have recently been on the rise in non-Western, newly industrialized nations (Gordon,
2001). There is evidence that these gender and societal differences may be due to cultural
factors, such as Western cultural standards that promote thinness as ideal beauty in
women (Crandall & Martinez 1996; Stice, 1994; Vandereycken & Hoek, 1992). In a
review of the literature on the etiology of eating disorders, Striegel-Moore and Cachelin
(2001) described sociocultural contexts, including the thin beauty ideal and gender roles,
as major risk factors for developing eating disorders. Additionally, an extensive body of
research indicates that the media may represent the most notable socializing agent for this
cultural beauty ideal (Groesz, Levine, & Murnen, 2002; Harrison & Cantor, 1997).
Research also suggests that body dissatisfaction, a diagnostic criterion for both anorexia
and bulimia (APA), is an integral part of women's socialization (Henderson-King &
Henderson-King, 1997; Stice). More specifically, this socialization results in a
"normative discontent" among women about their bodies (Rodin, Silberstein, & Striegel-
Objectification theory, a sociocultural model developed by Fredrickson and
Roberts (1997), provides a useful framework for understanding how sociocultural factors
and gender socialization are linked to eating disorder symptomatology. The model can be
summarized as follows. Sexual objectification, which permeates the sociocultural
contexts in which women live, leads to "self-objectification," or viewing oneself from an
outsider's perspective. Self-objectification in turn leads to increases in appearance
anxiety, anxiety about safety, and body shame over not meeting cultural beauty
standards. These psychological and emotional consequences of self-objectification result
in increased depressive and anxiety disorders, sexual dysfunction, and eating disorders.
Self-objectification is described as both a trait (i.e., experienced more chronically by
some women than others) and a state (i.e., more likely to occur in certain situations than
Empirical support has accumulated for objectification theory as it explains eating
disorders in samples of primarily White/European American women. For example, in a
study of the emotional consequences of self-objectification, Miner-Rubino, Twenge, and
Fredrickson (2002) found that self-objectification predicted body shame and depression
incrementally, beyond what was predicted by body dissatisfaction and other personality
variables. In another study, Fredrickson, Roberts, Noll, Quinn, and Twenge (1998) found
individual differences in self-objectification, lending support to the concept of trait self-
objectification. They also found that certain situations (e.g., trying on a swimsuit versus a
sweater) are more likely to trigger self-objectification, supporting the existence of state
self-objectification. Furthermore, they found that women in their sample were
significantly more likely than men to self-objectify and to experience greater body shame
when state self-objectification was triggered experimentally (i.e., trying on a swimsuit in
front of a full length mirror). Body shame, resulting form the experimental condition of
induced state self-objectification, in turn was predictive of restrained eating for women in
Several other studies found support for a link between self-objectification and
eating disorder symptoms, both directly and indirectly through the mediating role of body
shame (Greenleaf, 2005; Noll & Fredrickson, 1998; Tiggeman & Lynch, 2001; Tiggeman
& Slater, 2001). For example, Tiggeman and Slater found that former ballet dancers
scored higher on trait self-objectification, self-surveillance, and eating disorder symptoms
than did non-dancers. Assuming that the ballet culture is one in which women are more
likely to be objectified and scrutinized, these results supported the notion that women
exposed to an intensely objectifying cultural context (i.e., ballet culture) are more likely
to self-objectify than those not exposed to such a context. Similarly, in a study of the
relationship of media exposure to eating behaviors, Morry and Staska (2001) found that,
among the women in their sample, increased exposure to beauty magazines, a
manifestation of an objectifying cultural context, was significantly positively associated
with self-objectification and eating disorder behaviors. However, these relationships were
fully mediated by level of internalization of cultural beauty standards of thinness as ideal.
Their results therefore suggested that exposure to beauty magazines is translated into self-
objectification and eating problems through internalization of these cultural beauty
Another recent study conducted by Moradi, Dirks, and Matteson (2005) also
highlighted the important additional role of internalization of cultural beauty standards
for mediating the relationship between sexually objectifying cultural experiences and
self-objectification. Their path analytic results showed significant positive links among
reported experiences of sexual objectification, internalization of cultural beauty
standards, self-objectification as indicated by body surveillance, body shame, and eating
disorder symptoms. Moradi et al. also found several mediator effects. Internalization of
cultural beauty standards mediated the link of reported experiences of sexual
objectification to self-objectification, body shame, and eating disorder symptoms. In
addition, self-objectification also mediated the link of reported sexual objectification
experiences to body shame. Similar to other studies, the link between self-objectification
an eating disorder symptomatology was also partially mediated by body shame.
Overall, data suggest that objectification theory is useful in explaining the high
prevalence rates of body shame and eating disorders among women of White/European
American background. Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) recognized, however, that their
theory was based on research conducted primarily on White/European American women.
They pointed out that this was mainly due to the very limited number of cross-cultural
studies on mental health issues in women.
The lack of research on eating disorders among women of color may be due in part
to the fact that eating disorders have historically been considered primarily a problem
among young, middle-class, White/European American women (Thompson, 1992). This
impression has begun to change, however, with increased reports of eating disorders
among women of color. For example, one recent study comparing Asian American,
African American, Latina, and White/European American women found all groups of
women were equally likely to exhibit symptoms of bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating
disorder (Cachelin, Veisel, Barzegarnazari, & Striegel-Moore, 2000). Additionally, eating
disorder prevalence rates have been on the rise since the early 1990's in non-Western
societies, such as Asia, Africa, and Latin America, which have not historically had
significant eating disorder rates (Gordon, 2001).
Consistent with the increasing prevalence of eating disorders, Fredrickson and
Roberts (1997) surmised that all women experience self-objectification because all
women are presumably socialized within a sexually objectifying cultural context. No
extant study, however, has attempted to examine the applicability of objectification
theory for explaining eating disorders in women of ethnic or racial backgrounds other
than White/European American. As a step toward addressing this gap in the literature, the
present study will focus on examining the propositions of objectification theory among
Latinas. Clearly such a study must attend also to the unique experiences of Latinas and
incorporate in the examination of objectification theory additional constructs that have
been linked with eating disorder related variables for Latinas.
Crago, Shisslak, and Estes (1996) reviewed the literature on eating disorders among
women of color and noted a paucity of studies specifically examining eating disorders
among Latinas. Their review of the few extant studies on Latinas suggested that Latinas
are as likely as White/European American women to develop eating disorders. Further,
some studies have found that Latinas have greater body dissatisfaction in comparison to
other women of color (Altabe, 1998; Fitzgibbon et al., 1998). According to the review by
Crago et al. (1996), one of the greatest risk factors among women of color for developing
eating disorders is identifying with White, middle-class cultural values. Indeed, several
studies found a relationship between acculturation and eating disorders. For example,
Cachelin et al. (2000) found that increased acculturation to U.S. culture was associated
with increased eating problems. They also found that, among those who met criteria for
eating disorders, women who were less acculturated were less likely to have received
treatment. In another study, Pumariega (1986) compared the eating attitudes of Latina
and White/European American adolescent girls. Although Latina girls' attitudes about
eating were generally comparable to those of White/European American girls, there was
a significant positive correlation between greater acculturation and eating disorder
symptoms. Similarly, Franko and Herrera (1997) found Guatemalan American women to
be significantly less likely to report body image and eating problems than
White/European American women in their sample. However, among the Guatemalan
American women, those with increased acculturation levels were significantly more
likely to report body dissatisfaction than those who were less acculturated.
Whereas the aforementioned studies focused on general acculturation, Lester and
Petrie (1995) examined the more specific variable of endorsement of U.S. sociocultural
values about attractiveness along with general acculturation. They found that subscribing
to U.S. sociocultural values about attractiveness was related to bulimic symptoms,
although general acculturation was not. Their results suggested that Latinas'
vulnerabilities to eating disorders are linked with internalization of U.S. cultural beauty
standards, a more specific aspect of the general process of acculturation. The
acculturation process has been described as one that is complex and multidimensional
(Berry, 2003). Therefore, assessing acculturation only as a general dimension may not
fully capture its relationship to eating disturbance. It may be that general acculturation is
linked with eating disorder related variables through its link with internalization of the
dominant cultural beauty standards.
Another important variable that may be linked to eating disorders among Latinas
is acculturative stress. Acculturative stress has been described as a psychological
outcome that occurs during the acculturation process when cultural norms from the host
culture are in conflict with the norms of the culture of origin (Berry, 2003). If the
acculturating individual interprets this conflict as particularly difficult to surmount and
problematic to his or her self-concept, acculturative stress may be experienced. This
stress reaction often makes acculturation, or adjustment to the host culture, a difficult and
lengthy process. According to one review of the literature on acculturation, acculturative
stress has been associated with a person's internal coping resources, available support
resources, and the types of stressors experienced (Roysircar-Sodowsky & Virgil Maestas,
2000). Furthermore, it is not considered an inevitable aspect of acculturation and
supportive extended family networks can serve a protective role against it (Berry; Balls
Organista, Organista, & Kurasaki, 2003). Whether or not one experiences acculturative
stress may be dependent on several factors. Increased acculturative stress has been
associated with earlier generation level in the U.S. (Padilla, Wagatsuma, & Lindholm,
1985), immigrating to the U.S. after about age 14 (Padilla, Alvarez, & Lindholm, 1986),
low self-esteem (Padilla et al., 1985), lower career self-efficacy (Miranda & Umhoefer,
1998), and depression and anxiety (Hovey & Magana, 2000).
A study conducted by Chamorro and Flores-Ortiz (2000) provided indirect
support for a link between acculturative stress and eating disturbances. These authors
examined the relationship between general acculturation to U.S. culture and eating
attitudes among five generations of Mexican American women. Their findings indicated
not only that increased acculturation was significantly related to increased eating
disturbance, but also that this association was strongest among the second-generation
women, who were born in the U.S. to parents who had immigrated from a Hispanic
country. One interpretation of this may be that the second-generation Latinas were
particularly susceptible to experiencing acculturative stress due to their recent contact
with some American sociocultural norms, such as cultural beauty standards. Attempting
to incorporate these norms while simultaneously trying to retain the norms associated
with their culture of origin may produce conflict in the form of acculturative stress among
some first and second generation Latinas in their quest to adapt to a host culture.
Only one study has evaluated directly the relationship between acculturative stress
and eating disorder symptoms among Latinas and other women of ethnically diverse
backgrounds. Perez, Voelz, Pettit, and Joiner (2002) found that increased body
dissatisfaction, acculturative stress, and the interaction between the two were significant
predictors of increased bulimic symptoms. Among those scoring high on acculturative
stress, higher levels of body dissatisfaction were related to higher levels of bulimic
symptoms. Among those scoring low on acculturative stress, the relationship between
body dissatisfaction and bulimic symptoms was weak and did not reach significance.
Therefore, acculturative stress appears to influence the relationship between body
dissatisfaction and bulimic symptoms among Latinas and other women of color.
Although there is little research on the impact of acculturative stress on eating disorder
symptoms, these results and other research linking acculturative stress to mental health
problems (Hovey & Magafia, 2000; Miranda & Umhoefer, 1998; Padilla et al., 1985),
suggest that the relationship between acculturative stress and eating disorders in Latinas
should be further explored.
In summary, several interrelated variables seem to be associated with eating
disorders among Latinas. These include acculturative stress, internalization of cultural
beauty standards, and acculturation through its relationship to this internalization.
Objectification theory offers a practical sociocultural model for understanding the
development of eating disorders that, with the addition of these culturally relevant
variables, may be applicable to Latinas. Thus, the present study integrates the empirically
supported propositions of objectification theory with extant research on eating disorders
among Latinas to examine a culturally appropriate version of objectification theory for
Latinas. More specifically, this study will examine empirically a model that assesses
direct and indirect (i.e., mediated) links of acculturation, internalization of cultural
standards of beauty, self-objectification, and body shame to eating disorder
symptomatology. In addition, the role of acculturative stress in the model will be
explored. Given the limited research on the role of acculturative stress in eating disorder
symptomatology among Latinas, however, examination of the role of acculturative stress
in the model will be strictly exploratory. The following chapter will include a thorough
description of the overall model for Latinas, including a description of objectification
theory, the research supporting it, and the variables that may be added for applying the
theory to Latinas. The following chapter will also provide a description of the purpose
and hypotheses for the current study.
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
It is well documented that women are significantly more likely than men to be
diagnosed with eating disorders (APA, 2000). Extant literature suggests that the
prevalence and development of eating disorders are in part rooted in sociocultural
contexts, such as Western cultural standards, that promote thinness as ideal beauty in
women (Striegel-Moore & Cachelin, 2001; Vandereycken & Hoek, 1992). For example,
in a comprehensive review of the literature on bulimia, Stice (1994) cited extensive
research evidence suggesting that sociocultural pressures may affect the development and
maintenance of bulimia. He described several trends that may promote thin ideal images
for women, including increasingly thinner women in the media over the past few
decades, increasing numbers of dieting articles in women's magazines, and steadily
increasing rates of eating disorders among women from the 1960's through the 1990's. A
sociocultural model is also supported by evidence that eating disorders remain much
more prevalent among Western and industrialized nations, although incidence rates have
increased all over the world in recent decades (Gordon, 2001; Pate et al., 1992).
According to Gordon (2001), the steadily increasing eating disorder rates among
women in U.S. and Western European societies from the 1960's through the 1990's
coincided with shifts in female gender roles related to increasing participation in
employment and higher education. He noted that while the rates have leveled off in the
U.S., they have been steadily increasing since the 1990's in newly emerging
industrialized societies, such as Japan, China, Mexico, and Argentina. Gordon described
the rise of eating disorders as a "modern epidemic" that coincides with increasing
consumerism within societies that emphasize personal achievement and satisfaction. He
proposed that eating disorder rates reflect societal role conflicts for women. These
struggles between traditional female roles focusing on submissiveness and newly
emerging roles focusing on achievement may be associated with the development of
eating disorders and the larger social problem of body dissatisfaction.
Rodin et al. (1984) developed the concept of "normative discontent" to describe the
pervasive dissatisfaction with one's body that exists among women in U.S. society.
According to these scholars, American cultural standards promote an unrealistic ideal of
thinness for women. This unattainable ideal results in body dissatisfaction, which
inevitably leads to low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and depression in women. Indeed,
while body dissatisfaction has been established as a diagnostic criterion for both anorexia
and bulimia nervosa (APA, 2000), several studies found body image concerns among
women without diagnosed eating disorders (Cash & Henry, 1995; Demarest & Allen,
2000; Irving, 1990; Thompson & Psaltis, 1988). The normative nature of body
dissatisfaction is consistent with the notion that body dissatisfaction is an aspect of
The research literature on media exposure to thin models further supports a
sociocultural perspective of eating disorders. Groesz et al. (2002) conducted a meta-
analysis of 25 studies on the effects of experimental manipulations of the thin beauty
ideal, through media exposure, on women's body images. They calculated 43 effect sizes
and examined the main effects of mass media images of the thin ideal as well as the
moderating effects of premorbid body image problems, age, number of stimulus
presentations, and type of research design. Results indicated that body satisfaction was
significantly more negatively affected by viewing thin media images than by viewing
other types of media, including average size models, overweight models, or inanimate
objects. This supports the notion that cultural context, in the form of mass media
portrayals of thin ideals, affects body dissatisfaction. Thus, a substantial body of
literature points to sociocultural roots of eating disorders. Objectification theory
(Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997) provides a framework for understanding how this
sociocultural context results in eating disorders.
Objectification Theory: A Sociocultural Explanation for Eating Disorders
Objectification theory, proposed by Fredrickson and Roberts (1997), has made an
important contribution to the psychological literature on the link between women's
experiences and mental health. Fredrickson and Roberts grounded their tenets on
available empirical literature and argued that women's bodies are defined by and viewed
through a sociocultural lens. More specifically, they argued that women's experiences
and mental health risks are shaped by a culture in which they are constantly being
observed and evaluated based on how they look. Women are treated as objects for the
pleasure of others rather than as complete human beings. Fredrickson and Roberts
described frequent male "gaze," or visual inspection of the body, as one obvious example
of the ways women are sexually scrutinized and objectified. They cited evidence of the
abundance of such gaze from empirical research on interpersonal relations and media
representations of women's bodies and body parts. For example, extant data indicate that
women are more likely than men to be gazed upon and to feel gazed upon in
interpersonal situations (Argyle & Williams, 1969; Hall, 1984). Men are more likely than
women to engage in nonreciprocated gaze and make accompanying sexually evaluative
commentary (Cary, 1978; Henley, 1977). Visual media often depict men looking directly
at women, whereas media portrayals of women often emphasize body parts as
representations of the whole woman (Goffman, 1979; Sommers-Flanigan, Sommers-
Flanigan, & Davis, 1993; van Zoonen, 1994). Such evidence provides support for the
notion that women and their bodies are often objectified.
According to objectification theory, because women in American society are
socialized within a sexually objectifying cultural context, they learn early in life to view
themselves through a similar lens. Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) described this "self-
objectification" as internalization of an outsider's perspective on one's body. Some
women may be more chronically preoccupied with their appearance than others (i.e., trait
self-objectification). In addition, certain situations, most likely ones that are public, in
which men are present, and that have increased potential for visual scrutiny by others,
may trigger or magnify a state of self-objectification (i.e., state self-objectification).
According to objectification theory, all women experience self-objectification
irrespective of their level of body image satisfaction because self-objectification exists as
part of women's cultural socialization.
Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) suggested that self-objectification is manifested in
women's tendency to constantly monitor their own bodies and compare themselves with
impossible to reach cultural standards of beauty. This leads to a self-definition that is
based on what one looks like to the outside observer. Therefore, the consequences of self-
objectification are often feelings of shame for not living up to the cultural beauty ideal
(i.e., body shame). Additionally, women experience appearance anxiety based on
constantly being judged by their appearance, as well as anxiety related to their personal
safety due to the increased potential for violence against them. Their chronic self-
inspection, whether based on appearance anxiety or on an awareness of being objectified
by others, leads self-objectifying women to experience interruptions in concentration that
keep them from reaching "peak motivational states" when mental activities are most
productive. Finally, internalizing an observer's perspective leads women to be less
attentive to, or less aware of, their own internal bodily cues (e.g., increased heart-rate)
and to focus more on external cues for determining how to feel in certain situations.
Thus, self-objectification leads to increased shame and anxiety, decreased concentration
and mental activity, and decreased attention to internal bodily cues. These psychological
and emotional consequences of self-objectification in turn lead to eating disorders and
other mental health problems that have higher prevalence rates among women (e.g.,
depression, anxiety, sexual dysfunction).
Empirical Research on Objectification Theory
Although objectification theory was published fairly recently, evidence for its
utility in understanding eating disorder symptomatology has been accumulating. Several
authors have examined empirically the extent to which aspects of objectification theory
explain eating disorders for samples of primarily White/European American women.
Much of this research has focused on and supported links among self-objectification,
body shame, and eating disorder symptomatology. For example, Noll and Fredrickson
(1998) developed a measure of trait self-objectification and examined the mediating role
of body shame in the link between self-objectification and eating disorder symptoms.
They proposed that self-objectification would lead to increased body shame in women,
which would then lead to dieting. Dieting would lead to greater awareness of body shame
and body dissatisfaction, eventually spiraling into eating disorder behaviors. They also
hypothesized that the threat of body shame and fear of future weight gain would be
enough to lead some women to engage in disordered eating even if they were currently
satisfied with their bodies (i.e., did not experience body shame). Thus, self-objectification
would have a direct link to eating disorder behaviors as well as an indirect link, through
body shame, to these behaviors.
In order to test these hypotheses, Noll and Fredrickson (1998) developed and
administered two measures to two separate samples of undergraduate university women.
The Self-Objectification Questionnaire (SOQ) assessed concern with appearance
manifested through self-monitoring. In completing the SOQ, respondents are asked to
rank-order a list of 10 items consisting of 5 appearance based (e.g., physical
attractiveness) and 5 competence based (e.g., physical fitness) body attributes. Noll and
Fredrickson reported that the SOQ was shown to demonstrate good construct validity
based on correlations with other related measures. These authors also developed the Body
Shame Questionnaire (BSQ) to measure how likely one is to feel ashamed about one's
body. Composite scores are obtained by rating the frequency and intensity with which
one would like to change a list of 28 body attributes. As evidence of predictive validity,
the authors reported that BSQ scores accounted for unique variance in eating disorder
symptoms beyond that accounted for by other measures of general shame and
Noll and Fredrickson (1998) also administered several measures of eating disorder
symptoms, including the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT; Garner & Garfinkel, 1979), a
general measure of eating disorder behaviors and body dissatisfaction, the Revised
Bulimia Test (BULIT-R; Thelen, Farmer, Wonderlich, & Smith, 1991), a measure of
bulimic symptoms, and the Revised Restraint Scale (Polivy, Herman, & Howard, 1988),
a measure of anorexia symptomatology (e.g., weight fluctuations, degree of chronic
dieting, attitudes toward weight and eating). Evidence of validity and reliability across
samples exists for each of these instruments. All measures were first administered to a
sample of 93 young adult women, most of whom were White/European American (3%
Latinas). The second sample consisted of 111 mostly White/European American young
adult women (6% Latina). The second study was a replication of the first and data for the
combined samples were analyzed using multiple regression techniques.
Results indicated that body shame partially mediated the relationship between self-
objectification and eating disorders on the general measure of eating disorder behaviors.
Similar patterns were found for each of the measures of bulimia and anorexia. More
specifically, consistent with their hypotheses, Noll and Fredrickson (1998) found that
self-objectification was linked directly and indirectly, through body shame, to disordered
Fredrickson et al. (1998) expanded this research by conducting experimental
manipulations of the model. They examined the relationship between self-objectification
and disordered eating as mediated by body shame. They also examined the emotional and
behavioral consequences of self-objectification for women versus men. In the first
experiment, they randomly assigned a sample of 72 undergraduate university women to
either an induced self-objectification condition (i.e., trying on a swimsuit) or a control
condition (i.e., trying on a crewneck sweater). The participants were mostly
White/European American undergraduate women (7% Latinas). Self-objectification and
body shame were measured using the aforementioned SOQ and the BSQ, respectively.
Fredrickson et al. also measured restrained eating behavior by recording the number of
cookies eaten (presented as part of a taste test).
Using hierarchical multiple regression analyses, Fredrickson et al. (1998) found
that beyond body mass index (BMI), both state and trait self-objectification predicted
body shame among the women in their sample. They also found that the interaction of
trait and state self-objectification predicted body shame, such that women in the swimsuit
condition who scored relatively high on trait self-objectification exhibited the highest
levels of body shame. Next, to determine whether body shame predicted restrained
eating, participants were classified into one of three restrained eating groups: true
restraint (if they ate less than half of one cookie), symbolic restraint (if they ate more than
half but less than one whole cookie), and no restraint (if they ate one whole or more
cookies). Using logistic regression analysis, Fredrickson et al. found that as body shame
increased, participants were significantly more likely to be in either the true restraint or
symbolic restraint groups than in the no restraint group. Additionally, participants with
very high levels of body shame were those most likely to engage in symbolic restraint, a
psychological refraining from the idea of eating a whole cookie. Thus, the findings of
their study support the notion that self-objectification is related to body shame, which in
turn is related to eating behavior.
In a second experiment, Fredrickson et al. (1998) selected 40 men and 42 women
from a group of undergraduate university students who had prescreening scores within
the highest and lowest quartiles of the SOQ. The same procedures and instruments were
used as in the first experiment. This experiment also included a manipulation check to
determine whether trying on a swimsuit actually induced a state of self-objectification.
This was assessed using a modification of the Twenty Statements Test (TST; Bugental &
Zelen, 1950) in which respondents wrote 20 statements regarding how they felt about
themselves while wearing the clothing item. Two independent coders classified responses
into categories reflecting feelings about body shape and size, physical appearance,
physical competence, traits or abilities, states or emotions, and uncodable responses.
Interrater agreement was high ( 84.5% for body shape and size statements and 83.8%
Fredrickson et al. (1998) conducted an ANCOVA, using BMI as a covariate, to
examine the effects of experimental condition, trait self-objectification, and gender on
likelihood of making body shape and size statements. Results revealed a significant effect
only for experimental condition. On average, participants in the swimsuit condition wrote
significantly more body shape and size responses on the modified TST than those in the
sweater condition. Thus, it was concluded that the swimsuit condition did in fact induce
state self-objectification while the sweater condition did not.
In this experiment, Fredrickson et al. (1998) also expected that self-obj ectification
would lead to body shame for women but not for men. This prediction was based on the
premise that only women should be vulnerable to self-objectification because women are
the targets of sexual objectification in society. Because only persons with high or low
trait self-objectification were selected for this experiment, an ANCOVA was conducted
instead of regression to analyze the data. The results indicated that, when the relationship
of BMI to body shame was controlled for, women in this sample were significantly more
likely to feel body shame while trying on a swimsuit than were men. The only significant
predictor of body shame for the men was trait self-objectification. Restrained eating was
examined in this experiment with two Twix bars and this time the participants were
clustered into two groups: restraint group (ate approximately half of one bar) or no
restraint group (ate at least one whole bar). None of the participants engaged in symbolic
restraint. Logistic regression analysis revealed that membership in the restraint group was
significantly associated with being a woman, having increased body shame, and higher
levels of trait self-objectification, though not experimentally induced state self-
objectification. The findings of this study provided support for several aspects of
objectification theory, that women are more likely to self-objectify than men, and that
self-objectification leads to body shame and restrained eating.
Another study incorporated objectification theory into a cross-sectional
investigation of body image in women across the lifespan (Tiggeman & Lynch, 2001).
Tiggeman and Lynch examined the link between self-objectification and eating disorder
symptoms. Furthermore, they examined body shame, habitual body monitoring, and
appearance anxiety as potential mediators of this relationship. However, in the original
formulation of objection theory by Fredrickson and Roberts (1997), habitual body
monitoring was considered a behavior associated with taking on an observer's
perspective of one's body and therefore an aspect of self-objectification, rather than a
consequence of it. Hence, Tiggeman and Lynch's examination of habitual body
monitoring may be considered an additional assessesment of self-objectification or of one
aspect of it.
Tiggeman and Lynch's (2001) study was the first to test the objectification theory
model in a non-university sample, with 322 women participants recruited from a large
geographic area in Victoria, Australia. The women ranged in age from 20 to 84 (M=
45.02, SD = 16.62). Unfortunately, no ethnicity data was reported for this sample, yet as
is often true of most studies that do not specifically examine ethnic variables, it is likely
that most of the women in the sample were of White/Caucasian background. In addition
to the SOQ (Noll & Fredrickson, 1998), the habitual body monitoring inherent in self-
objectification was measured using the Body Surveillance subscale of the Objectified
Body Consciousness Scale (OBCS; McKinley & Hyde, 1996). The Body Surveillance
Scale of the OBCS is designed to measure the extent to which one frequently watches
one's appearance and thinks of one's body in terms of how it looks. This was considered
by the authors to be conceptually equivalent to the habitual body monitoring inherent in
self-objectification. They measured body shame with the Body Shame Scale of the
OBCS, which assesses how likely one is to feel badly about not fulfilling cultural
expectations for one's body. Appearance anxiety was assessed with the Appearance
Anxiety Scale (Dion, Dion, & Keelan, 1990), which is a measure of apprehension
regarding one's physical appearance and how others evaluate it. They measured eating
disorder symptomatology using the Drive for Thinness, Bulimia, and Body
Dissatisfaction subscales of the Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI; Garner, Olmsted, &
Using regression analyses to conduct a path analysis, Tiggeman and Lynch (2001)
found a strong positive link between self-objectification and body monitoring. Body
monitoring in turn was linked to both increased body shame and increased appearance
anxiety. Consequently, appearance anxiety and body shame both accounted for unique
variance in eating disorder symptoms. Their study further supports objectification
theory's explanation of eating disorders as resulting from self-objectification and body
Another study that supports the link between self-objectification and eating
disorder symptoms and the mediating role of body shame in this link was conducted by
Tiggeman and Slater (2001). These researchers compared a sample of 50 former dancers,
who had studied ballet for an average of seven years, to 51 non-dancer undergraduate
students. All the participants were women and more than 95% described as "Caucasian."
Based on the premise that the ballet culture places extreme pressure on dancers to be thin,
the authors predicted that former dancers would score significantly higher than non-
dancers on measures of body shame, appearance anxiety, and eating disorder symptoms.
The authors hypothesized that self-objectification would explain the differences in scores.
The measures used by Tiggeman and Slater (2001) included the SOQ (Noll &
Fredrickson, 1998), the Body Surveillance and Body Shame subscales of the OBCS
(McKinley & Hyde, 1996), and the short form of the Appearance Anxiety Scale (Dion et
al., 1990). Eating disorder symptomatology was assessed with the 26-item version of the
Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26; Garner, Olmsted, Bohr, & Garfinkel, 1982), which is
derived from the original 40-item EAT (Garner & Garfinkel, 1979) and is similarly
considered a highly stable and valid measure of eating disorder symptoms and body
dissatisfaction (Kashubeck-West, Mintz, & Saunders 2001).
A MANOVA revealed no significant differences between former dancers and non-
dancers on body shame or appearance anxiety. However, the group of former dancers
was found to score significantly higher than the non-dancers on disordered eating, self-
objectification, and body surveillance. A path analysis using regression techniques
revealed that, for both groups, increased self-objectification was linked to increased self-
surveillance, which then was linked to increased eating disorder behaviors through
increased body shame. For the former dancers, increased self-surveillance was also
directly related to increased eating disorder behaviors.
The research conducted by Tiggeman and Slater (2001) and by Tiggeman and
Lynch (2001) raised a question about whether body surveillance/monitoring is equivalent
to or distinct from self-objectification. Objectification theory clearly posits that body
surveillance is integral to self-objectification. Consistent with this perspective, Miner-
Rubino et al. (2002) noted the conceptual similarities between the SOQ and the Body
Surveillance Scale of the OBCS, observing that the Body Surveillance Scale also taps the
tendency to adopt an observer's perspective on one's body. Indeed, in a sample of 98
mostly White/European American (73%) women, they found that these two measures
were highly correlated (r = .63, p < .001), suggesting that they both tap the same
construct. Thus, the authors combined scores on the SOQ and Body Surveillance Scale to
form a single self-objectification composite, which yielded a Cronbach's alpha of .85. As
expected, this self-objectification composite was found to correlate significantly with
increased body shame, depression, and Neuroticism. Self-objectification did not correlate
with body dissatisfaction, demonstrating that these are different constructs. Using
regression techniques, they also found self-objectification to significantly predict
negative affect, including body shame and depression, beyond that predicted by body
dissatisfaction and other personality variables. This study was meaningful not only in
finding that self-objectification has a direct link to negative emotional consequences, but
also in providing evidence of convergent and discriminant validity for the concept of self-
objectification and two extant operationalizations.
The research reviewed thus far provides consistent support for the notion that self-
objectification is related directly and indirectly, through body shame, to eating disorder
symptomatology. A study conducted by Morry and Staska (2001) suggests that
internalization of cultural beauty standards is an important precursor to these links. More
specifically, they examined the role of internalization of cultural beauty standards in the
link from media exposure, a sexually objectifying social context, to self-objectification
and eating behaviors among a sample of 61 men and 89 women, all young adult
university students. Although no ethnicity data was reported for the sample, as stated
above, it is reasonable to assume that most participants were of White/European
American background given that the study did not specifically assess ethnicity. Only the
results reported for women participants will be discussed here as they are the most
relevant to the present study. The instruments administered included the EAT (Garner &
Garfinkel, 1979), the SOQ (Noll & Fredrickson, 1998), and the Body Shape
Questionnaire (BSQ; Cooper, Taylor, Cooper, & Fairburn, 1987).
Additionally, Morry and Staska (2001) developed a Magazine Exposure Scale
(MES) for their study in order to assess exposure to ideal body images presented in the
media. The MES asks respondents to indicate how many out of a total of 5 fitness
magazines, 7 beauty magazines, and 10 "filler" magazines they have looked at in the past
month. Total scores are obtained by summing the total of fitness and beauty magazines
endorsed. The authors examined the relationship of magazine exposure to internalization
of cultural beauty standards using the Sociocultural Attitudes Toward Appearance
Questionnaire (SATAQ; Heinberg, Thompson, & Stormer, 1995), a 14-item measure of
women's awareness and internalization of Western sociocultural standards of thinness as
Morry and Staska's (2001) regression analyses revealed that exposure to beauty
magazines was significantly related to self-objectification and eating problems, although
both of these relationships were fully mediated by internalization of cultural beauty
standards of thinness as ideal. Thus, for the women in this study, reading beauty
magazines (a sexually objectifying social context) was related to internalization of
cultural beauty standards for women, and through that internalization, to self-
objectification and greater eating disturbance.
Moradi et al. (2005) also examined the role of internalization of cultural beauty
standards in mediating the relationship of reported sexual objectification to self-
objectification as well as to body shame and eating disorder symptoms. They surveyed a
sample of 221 mostly White/European American (64%) undergraduate university
women. Similar to other authors (Miner-Rubino et al., 2002; Tiggeman & Lynch, 2001),
they reasoned that the Body Surveillance Scale of the OBCS (McKinley & Hyde, 1996)
is an accurate measure of self-objectification. They measured reported sexual
objectification experiences using the Sexual Objectification subscale of the Daily Sexist
Events scale (Swim, Cohen & Hyers, 1998). The other instruments used were the Body
Shame Scale of the OBCS (McKinley & Hyde) to measure body shame and the EAT-26
(Garner et al., 1982) to measure eating disorder symptoms, in addition to body mass
Moradi et al. (2005) conducted path analyses to examine a model of the direct and
indirect links among reported sexual objectification experiences, internalization of
cultural beauty standards, self-objectification as body surveillance, body shame, and
eating disorder symptoms. Significant positive correlations were found among all the
variables and the overall path model accounted for a substantial proportion (50%) of the
variance in eating disorder symptomatology. Several indirect links were also found.
Internalization of cultural beauty standards partially mediated the link from reported
sexual objectification experiences to body surveillance (e.g., self-objectification) and
fully mediated the link from reported sexual objectification experiences to body shame
and eating disorder symptoms. Body shame was also found to partially mediate the
relation from body surveillance to eating disorder symptoms. Thus, not only were all the
basic tenets of objectification theory supported, but internalization of cultural beauty
standards was also found to play a significant role in the links among reported sexual
objectification, self-objection, body shame, and eating disorder symptomatology.
In summary, extant research has provided accumulating support for objectification
theory, particularly in terms of how it explains the presence of eating disorders. The
evidence generally provides strong support for the notion that self-objectification is
associated with eating disorder symptoms, and this link is mediated partially by body
shame (Fredrickson et al., 1998; Noll & Fredrickson, 1998; Miner-Rubino et al., 2002;
Tiggeman & Lynch, 2001; Tiggeman & Slater, 2001). Furthermore, the recent research
by Morry and Staska (2001) and by Moradi et al. (2005) indicates that internalization of
cultural beauty standards is an important predictor of self-objectification.
Applying Objectification Theory to Latinas
One aspect of objectification theory that has yet to be examined is its applicability
to women across different ethnic or racial groups. The studies reviewed above all were
based on samples of primarily White/European American women. Fredrickson and
Roberts (1997) proposed that self-objectification is experienced by all women, regardless
of ethnic/racial background, due to their shared experiences of being objectified in
society. However, they acknowledged that the literature they used to formulate the theory
included studies conducted mainly on White/European American women and did not
adequately address ethnic diversity. The assumption that all women experience
objectification in the same ways, and that all women encounter the same cultural
pressures to be thin, ignores the variety of sociocultural contexts in which women from
different ethnic or racial groups find themselves.
As a step toward addressing this gap, the present study will examine the
applicability of objectification theory to understanding eating disorders among Latina
women. There has been a paucity of research specifically examining eating disturbances
among Latinas (Crago et al., 1996), although some research has begun to illuminate
several other factors that may play a role in addition to self-objectification, including
acculturation (Chamorro & Flores-Ortiz, 2000; Franko & Herrera, 1997; Pumariega,
1986), internalization of cultural beauty standards (Lester & Petrie, 1995), and the impact
of acculturative stress (Perez et al., 2002).
According to some findings, Latinas may be more likely to exhibit certain body
image and eating problems than other women of color. For example, Fitzgibbon et al.
(1998) examined of the prevalence of binge eating disorder symptoms among 55
White/European American, 179 African American, and 117 Latina women. Body image
was assessed using the Figure Rating Scale (Stunkard, Sorensen, & Schulsinger, 1983).
Depression was assessed using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI; Beck, Ward,
Mendelsohn, Mock, & Erbaugh, 1961). The Binge Scale (Hawkins & Clement, 1980),
and the Questionnaire on Eating and Weight Patterns Revised (QEWP-R; Spitzer et al.,
1993) were administered as measures of binge eating behavior. BMI was calculated using
Garrow & Webster's (1985) weight and height formula.
An ANCOVA revealed significant ethnic group differences in binge eating severity
after controlling for BMI, age, depression, and ideal body image. Latinas were
significantly more likely to report binge eating symptoms than either White/European
Americans or African Americans. Hierarchical regression analyses also indicated that
being Latina significantly predicted unique variance in binge eating severity after
accounting for BMI, depression, and ideal body image. The results of this study suggest
that eating disorder symptoms, in the form of binge eating, may be a serious problem
among Latinas in comparison to other ethnic groups (Fitzgibbon et al., 1998).
In another ethnic group comparison study, Altabe (1998) compared body image
concerns among African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino/as, and White/European
Americans. The sample consisted of 150 men and 185 women, all undergraduate
university students. The percentages of participants in each ethnic group were not
reported. Participants completed questionnaires consisting of the following measures: the
Body Dissatisfaction subscale of the EDI (Garner et al., 1983), the Figure Rating Scale
(Stunkard et al., 1983), and other body image measures. Altabe conducted an ANOVA to
determine whether body image scores differed significantly by ethnicity or gender. In
addition to the expected gender differences, results indicated that White/European
Americans exhibited the highest levels of body dissatisfaction and had significantly
greater body dissatisfaction than Asian Americans. Among racial/ethnic minority
persons, Latino/as and were found to have significantly greater levels of body
dissatisfaction than both Asian Americans and African Americans. Although these results
suggest that Latinos/as may have greater difficulties with body dissatisfaction, this study
did not attend to the impact of acculturation on ethnic group differences in eating
Acculturation and Internalization of Cultural Beauty Standards Among Latinas
Indeed, the limited emerging literature in the area of eating disorders among
Latinas suggests that body satisfaction may be associated with acculturation and/or
internalization of U.S. cultural beauty standards for women. In one of the first such
studies, Pumariega (1986) assessed the effects of acculturation on the relationship
between ethnicity and attitudes about eating for Latina and White/European American
adolescents. Latina participants were 138 adolescent girls. All Latinas were either born
outside of the U.S. or were the first generation in their family born in the U.S. Their
responses were compared to a sample of 365 White/European American adolescent girls.
Eating disorder symptoms were assessed using the EAT (Garner & Garfinkel,
1979). Acculturation to American culture was assessed using the Acculturation
Questionnaire, a rationally derived instrument developed by Pumariega (1986) that
included questions about food, music, clothing and language preferences, in addition to
number of years living in the U.S., cultural background of close relations, and
ethnic/cultural self-identification. According to descriptive statistics, both groups had
similar mean EAT scores, yet correlational results revealed that acculturation was
significantly positively related to increased eating disorder symptoms for Latina
participants. Thus, higher levels of acculturation (defined by increased preference for the
English language, as well as conventional U.S. food and music) were related to higher
levels of eating disorder symptoms among Latina participants. The results of this study
provided preliminary evidence of a relationship between acculturation and eating
In a more recent study, Franko and Herrera (1997) examined body image
satisfaction in a sample of 28 Guatemalan American women and 29 White/European
American women. All participants were undergraduate university students and the
Guatemalan American women were all second-generation, defined as born in the U.S.
with parents who had immigrated from Guatemala. Body image satisfaction was assessed
using the Drive for Thinness and Body Dissatisfaction subscales of the EDI (Garner et
al., 1983), the Fear of Fat Scale (Goldfarb, Dykens, & Gerrard, 1985), which is a measure
of attitudes toward obesity and fears of becoming overweight, and the Multidimensional
Body-Self Relations Questionnaire (MBSRQ; Brown, Cash, & Mikulka, 1990), which
measures attitudes about one's body. The Acculturation Questionnaire (Pumariega, 1986)
was used to assess level of acculturation, defined as reflecting "greater endorsement of
the attitudes and values of the majority American culture" (p. 122). It was chosen by the
authors because it was developed specifically "for a study of disturbed eating patterns in
Hispanic adolescents" (p. 122).
Franko and Herrera (1997) conducted a one-way MANOVA using all body image
measures in addition to several ANOVAs using each body image measure separately.
The results revealed that, compared to White/European American women, Guatemalan
American women in their sample were significantly less likely to report body
dissatisfaction, were not as driven toward thinness, and exhibited less fear of becoming
fat. Additionally, Guatemalan American women were significantly less likely to be
acculturated than White/European American women. Level of acculturation was also
significantly correlated with body image attitudes. Guatemalan American women who
were more acculturated showed significantly greater body disparagement and fat phobia
than those who were less acculturated. Thus, the results of this study indicate that
increased acculturation may be related to increased body dissatisfaction for Latinas.
Another recent study examined eating disorder symptoms, acculturation, and
treatment-seeking behaviors in an ethnically diverse community sample (Cachelin et al.,
2000). After initial interviews, the sample was divided into two groups, one group of
women who were currently experiencing an eating disorder and one control group of
women with no history of eating disorders. Participants were matched based on ethnicity
and educational level and each group included 49 Latinas, 25 White/European
Americans, 23 African Americans, and 21 Asian Americans. Participants completed a
structured phone interview using a screening tool originally designed for the New
England Women's Health Care Project (Striegel-Moore, Wilfley, Pike, Dohm, &
Fairbum, 1999) that assessed weight-related behaviors, psychiatric symptoms, and
healthcare usage. Questions were added to assess for acculturation based on those
variables that the authors described as most widely considered to be basic components of
acculturation. Thus, increased acculturation was defined as increased endorsement of the
following items: preference for the English language as primary; being born in the U.S.;
having parents who were born in the U.S. African American women were not included in
analyses conducted on acculturation because mostly all were born in the U.S. and had
parents who were born in the U.S.
According to a Chi-square analysis conducted by Cachelin et al. (2000), the women
in each of the different ethnic groups were equally likely to report symptoms of several
types of eating disorders, including binge eating disorder, bulimia, anorexia, and eating
disorder not otherwise specified. Initial ANOVA results revealed significant ethnic group
differences on BMI, thus BMI was entered as a covariate in subsequent analyses. An
ANCOVA indicated that the eating disorder group was significantly more likely to report
eating disorder symptoms than the control group and that there were no significant
ethnicity effects for the eating disorder group. Women in the eating disorder group were
found to be significantly more likely to be acculturated than women in the control group.
Additionally, among the women in the eating disorder group, those who were less
acculturated were significantly less likely to have received treatment in the past year. The
results of this study indicate that, although ethnicity itself may not be related to the
likelihood of experiencing eating disorders, level of acculturation to American society
may play a role both in the presentation of eating disorders and a woman's likelihood to
Providing further support for the relationship of acculturation to eating disorders,
Chamorro and Flores-Ortiz (2000) examined the relationship between acculturation and
eating attitudes among five generations of Mexican American women, ranging from first
generation women who were born in Mexico to fifth generation women whose
grandparents were born in the U.S. Participants included 139 women, with an average
age of 29.1. Participants were recruited from various community organizations and
undergraduate courses throughout a large metropolitan area in California. Most of the
women were first generation (36%) or second generation (37.4%) and almost half
(46.8%) were college students. Participants completed the EAT-26 (Garner et al., 1982)
and the Acculturation Rating Scale for Mexican Americans (ARSMA; Cuellar, Harris, &
Jasso, 1980). Correlational results indicated a significant positive relationship between
acculturation and eating disturbance. The group for which this relationship was the
strongest was the second-generation women.
Thus, extant research suggests that a relationship exists between acculturation and
eating disorders for Latinas. Due to the multidimensional nature of acculturation,
however, this relationship may be more complex than the aforementioned studies
suggest. Indeed, Lester and Petrie (1995) examined the more specific variable of
endorsement of U.S. sociocultural values about attractiveness, in addition to general
acculturation. This construct of sociocultural values about attractiveness is parallel to the
internalization of cultural beauty standards that was found by Morry and Staska (2001)
and Moradi et al. (2005) to contribute to self-objectification. Lester and Petrie also
assessed BMI and body satisfaction in their sample of 142 Mexican American
undergraduate university women.
Acculturation was defined in Lester and Petrie's (1995) study as "a dynamic
adaptation of the values, developmental sequences, roles, and personality factors of the
dominant group" (p. 199), in this case, U.S. culture. It was measured using the ARSMA
(Cuellar et al., 1980). This is the most commonly used and well-validated measure of
acculturation among Mexican Americans and has also been validated for use with other
Latino groups (Zane & Mak, 2003). The Beliefs About Attractiveness Questionnaire
(BAQ; Mintz & Betz, 1988) was used to assess level of endorsement of U.S.
sociocultural values about attractiveness. Bulimia was measured with the BULIT-R
(Thelen et al., 1991) and body satisfaction was measured with the Body Parts Satisfaction
Scale (BPSS; Borhrnstedt, 1977), which is a self-report measure of satisfaction with 24
Lester and Petrie (1995) conducted a hierarchical regression analysis and found
that, among the women in their sample, BMI and sociocultural beliefs about
attractiveness each accounted for significant equal portions of the variance in bulimic
symptoms. However, neither acculturation level nor level of body satisfaction predicted
unique variance in bulimia symptoms. One possible explanation for the lack of
significant results for body satisfaction, which may fit well with objectification theory, is
that perhaps self-objectification and not necessarily body dissatisfaction may be the
important predictor of eating disorders for Latinas. Although self-objectification was not
assessed in this study, such an explanation is supported by research on self-objectification
that has found it to predict negative affect and body shame beyond what was predicted by
body dissatisfaction (Miner-Rubino et al., 2002) as well as by research indicating that
self-objectification has a direct link to eating disorder symptoms (Noll & Fredrickson,
1998; Tiggeman & Lynch, 2001; Tiggeman & Slater, 2001). This explanation is also
supported by research suggesting that body dissatisfaction and fear of fat may not be as
common among women with eating disorders who come from cultures that have not
traditionally valued thinness (Gordon, 2001). Lester and Petrie also proposed that their
lack of finding a significant link between general acculturation and eating disorder
symptoms may be due to the fact that they focused on bulimia whereas other studies have
examined eating disorders in general, including anorexia.
As with body satisfaction, Lester and Petrie (1995) did not find a link between
general acculturation and bulimia symptoms. This was the only study among those
reviewed here, however, to differentiate between general acculturation and more specific
internalization of U.S. cultural beauty standards. Indeed, Lester and Petrie found the latter
was related significantly and positively to bulimia symptoms. These findings suggest that
internalization of cultural beauty standards may be an important predictor of eating
disorders among Latinas. More specifically, the link between acculturation and eating
disorder symptomatology may be mediated, fully or partially, by internalization of U.S.
cultural beauty standards.
In addition to the potential roles of general acculturation and internalization of
cultural beauty standards, acculturative stress may be an important correlate of eating
disorder symptoms among Latinas. Acculturative stress has been described as "a stress
reaction to challenging life events that are rooted in the experience of acculturation"
(Berry, 2003, p.31). Acculturation, by contrast, is defined as a process in which the
acculturating culture or individual has continuous and first-hand interaction with a host
culture. This interaction results in cultural and/or psychological change among the people
in contact from each of the groups, although greater change is most commonly found for
the acculturating group or individual. Acculturation is a multidimensional, continuous,
and fluid process that involves developing certain strategies for adaptation that vary
across individuals and across different types of societies. A psychologically healthy
process of acculturation (producing less acculturative stress) includes integrating aspects
of the new culture into one's cultural and individual identity while maintaining positive
identification with the culture of origin (Berry; Berry, Trimble, & Olmedo, 1986).
Berry (1980; 2003) conceptualized acculturative stress as similar to a general a
stress-coping appraisal process in that the stress reaction occurs when perceived adaptive
resources are judged as inadequate to deal with perceived societal demands. However,
what is unique about acculturative stress versus general stress is that it is experienced in
relation to the acculturation process specifically. Berry posited that healthy acculturation
includes balancing aspects of both cultures into one's cultural self-identity. When
excessive difficulties are encountered in this balancing process, acculturative stress may
occur. This conceptualization of acculturative stress is similar to the struggle described
by Harris and Kuba (1997) and other authors (see Gilbert, 2000), who have suggested
that eating disorders in women of color may be a coping strategy for dealing with
conflicting messages about beauty from their culture of origin and the host culture to
which they are acculturating. Acculturative stress has been associated with greater
vulnerability to psychological distress (Balls Organista et al., 2003), however, for this
review only one study was found that measured the impact of acculturative stress on the
development of eating disorders among women of color.
Perez et al. (2002) examined acculturative stress and body dissatisfaction in
predicting bulimia symptoms among a diverse sample of 118 undergraduate university
women. The sample consisted of 51% White/European Americans, 30% African
Americans, and 19% Latinas. Among the total number of Latinas in the sample, over
90% were born in the U.S. and 70% of those had parents who had moved to the U.S.
from a Latin American country. Participants completed the 24-item short version of the
Social, Attitudinal, Familial, and Environmental Acculturative Stress Scale (SAFE;
Mena, Padilla, & Maldonado, 1987), which was derived from the original 60-item
version developed by Padilla et al. (1985) and assesses experiences of acculturative stress
within several different contexts as well as perceived discrimination toward immigrant
populations. The authors also administered the EDI (Garner et al., 1983) to measure
eating disorder behaviors and the Figure Rating Scale (Stunkard et al., 1983) to measure
Initial correlational analyses revealed significant relationships between increased
body dissatisfaction and increased bulimic symptoms reported on the EDI Bulimia Scale.
A significant correlation was also found between acculturative stress and bulimic
symptoms. A MANOVA and subsequent univariate and post-hoc analyses indicated that
Latina and White/European American participants were significantly more likely to
report body dissatisfaction and bulimia symptoms than African American participants.
On the other hand, Latina participants were the group most likely to report acculturative
stress, followed by African Americans and then White/European Americans.
Perez et al. (2002) then conducted multiple regression analyses using only the
results for the women of color in the sample (N= 58). The results indicated that body
dissatisfaction and acculturative stress each were related positively and uniquely to
bulimia scores. Further, the interaction of body dissatisfaction and acculturative stress
also accounted for unique variance in bulimia scores. They divided participants into high
and low acculturative stress groups and found that among those scoring high on
acculturative stress, higher body dissatisfaction was related to more bulimia symptoms.
Among those scoring low on acculturative stress, the relationship between body
dissatisfaction and bulimia symptoms was weak and did not reach significance. The
results of this study indicated that acculturative stress may have important mental health
consequences for women of color in the form of increased body dissatisfaction and
increased vulnerability to bulimia. Although this study suggested that acculturative stress
may be related to body dissatisfaction and bulimia among Latinas, this was the only study
found for this review that specifically examined this relationship. Thus, further
exploratory research is needed on the relationship of acculturative stress to eating
disorder symptoms and their precursors.
In summary, the literature presented in this chapter suggests that there are several
factors that can add substantively to the framework of objectification theory in explaining
eating disorders among Latinas. Overall, the research suggests that acculturation and
internalization of cultural beauty standards may be associated with eating disorders
among Latinas. Furthermore, internalization of cultural beauty standards may mediate the
link of acculturation to eating disorders (Lester & Petrie, 1995) and self-objectification
(Moradi et al., 2005; Morry & Staska, 2001). Therefore, a theoretical model for
understanding eating disorders among Latinas should incorporate these constructs along
with the roles played by self-objectification and body shame that have been described in
the research on objectification theory. Interestingly, though Moradi et al. (2005) did not
specifically investigate racial/ethnic differences, they did report that an initial
MANCOVA and follow-up ANOVAs revealed that non-White participants in their
sample (N = 78) scored significantly lower on internalization of cultural beauty standards,
body surveillance, and eating disorder symptoms than White participants (N= 142). In
their discussion of potential future research, they recommended that objectification
theory and eating disorder related variables be specifically examined among ethnic
Purpose of the Present Study
Grounded on the literature reviewed in this chapter, the present study aims to
examine, in a sample of Latina participants, the applicability of the aspects of
objectification theory that are most relevant to understanding eating disorders.
Specifically, as proposed by objectification theory and extant literature on this theory, the
current study will examine a model that includes links among self-objectification, body
shame, and eating disorders. In light of research on Latinas, the current study will also
examine the role of acculturation and internalization of cultural beauty standards within
this model. Exploratory analysis of links between acculturative stress and eating disorder-
related variables included in the model will also be conducted. The model tested in the
current study is presented in Figure 2-1 and examines the following hypotheses:
1. Acculturation is expected to relate positively and directly to internalization of
cultural beauty standards and indirectly to self-objectification, body shame, and
2. Internalization of cultural beauty standards will be related directly and positively to
self-objectification and to body shame. In addition, there will be a positive and
direct link between internalization of cultural beauty standards and eating disorder
symptomatology. This link will also be mediated partially by self-obj ectification
and body shame.
3. Self-objectification will be related positively and directly to eating disorders
symptoms and this link will be mediated partially by body shame.
4. Finally, the link between acculturative stress and all other variables in the model
will be explored. Given the paucity of research on this relationship, however, no
specific hypotheses are made regarding the relationship of acculturative stress to
the variables in the model.
;ultura- Internali- Self- Body Eat. D,
1 zation Object. Shame Sympt
Figure 2-1. Hypothesized model of objectification theory and acculturation links to eating
disorder symptom in Latinas.
A total of 120 participants responded to the survey. Of these, 8 participants were
excluded due to substantial missing data. Independent samples t-tests revealed no
significant differences between the excluded participants and all other participants on
several demographic variables, including age, ethnic/racial self-identification,
socioeconomic status, sexual orientation identification, birthplace, parents' birthplace,
and generation level. The final sample used in the analyses consisted of 112 participants,
all of whom self-described as women and as Latina.
In order to identify potential ethnic/racial differences among the Latinas in the
sample, participants who self-described as Latina were asked to differentiate between
"Latina/Hispanic White" and "Latina/Hispanic Black" and also to differentiate between
how they self-describe and how they think others would describe them (see items 5 and 6
in the Appendix). The majority of participants self-described as "Latina/Hispanic White"
(81.3%) and also reported that others would describe them as "Latina/Hispanic White"
(79.5%). Some participants either circled both "Latina/Hispanic White" and
"Latina/Hispanic Black" or entered in "Other" as "Latina brown" or "just Latina" for
both their self-description (8%) and how others would describe them (7.1%). This may
suggest that had there been another category, such as "Latina/Hispanic Multiracial,"
perhaps more respondents would have opted to self-describe in that manner. The
remaining participants self-described as "Latina/Hispanic Black" (1.8%) or as both
"Latina/Hispanic White" and "European-American/White" (8%).
Participants ranged in age from 18 to 78, with a median age of 23 and a mean age
of 26.59 (SD = 9.32). The majority of participants were first-generation, born in the U.S.
(42%) or were immigrant generation, born outside of the U.S. (42%). Another 8.9% were
second-generation, 2.7% were third-generation, and 4.5% were from families that had
been living in the U.S. for more than three generations. Of those born outside of the U.S.,
24.1% were born in Mexico, Central, or South America, and 20.5% were born in the
Latin Caribbean (Cuba, Dominican Republic, or Puerto Rico). The median age at which
participants not born in the U.S. first moved to the U.S. was 7 and the mean age was
10.97 (SD = 9.46).
Socioeconomic status was measured using average annual household income.
Based on this, 52.7% of participants were middle class, 26.8% were working class,
10.7% were upper middle class, 4.5% were lower middle class, and 5.4% were upper
class. The majority of participants self-described as heterosexual (94.6%), while 2.7%
reported being gay or lesbian, 1.8% reported being bisexual, and .9% reported being
transgender or other.
In order to ensure that language barriers did not interfere with study results, two
questions were asked regarding level of English reading comprehension and ability to
understand the questions in the survey (see items 13 and 14 in the Appendix). All
participants reported that they understood English either well or very well and all
reported that they were able to understand the questions in the survey and provide
Survey packets were distributed through personal contacts and by mail. In addition
to the battery of instruments and demographic items described above, the packets
contained a stamped, self-addressed, return envelope and a consent form that explained
the purpose of the study, described rights of participants, and also included the
researchers' contact information for participants who had questions or comments about
the study. The majority of participants who responded to the survey were recruited from a
mailing list of Latino/Hispanic students obtained from the diversity office at a large
southeastern university. All students on the mailing list that were women were mailed a
survey. Those participants that received the survey by mail were sent a reminder letter
along with another copy of the survey after four weeks if they had not returned the
survey. As participation in the study was confidential, mail-out surveys were marked with
an identification number to determine who should receive reminder letters.
A total of 295 surveys were mailed out; however, 21 of those were returned due to
incorrect or insufficient addresses. Therefore, a total of 274 surveys were mailed and
actually received by potential participants. After the first mail-out, 62 surveys were
returned, yielding a 23% initial return rate. After reminder letters were sent, another 20
participants responded. Therefore, a total of 82 participants responded to the survey from
this mail-out, yielding a 30% total return rate. Four of these participants were among
those excluded from analyses due to substantial missing data. Thus, a total of 78
participants included in the final sample were female Latina university students.
As this is a circumscribed and difficult to reach population, participants were also
recruited from personal contacts and snow ball sampling methods in three major urban
areas in the southeastern, northeastern, and midwestern U.S. Reminder letters could not
be sent to participants recruited in this manner as surveys were distributed personally and
no mailing addresses were obtained. A total of 65 surveys were distributed through
personal contacts and snow ball sampling. Thirty eight participants responded, yielding a
return rate of 58% for this method. Of these, 4 were among those excluded from analyses
due to substantial missing data. Therefore, 34 of the participants in the study were from
these three primarily community-based subsamples.
ANOVA results revealed no significant differences among the 4 sampling locations
for most of the variables of interest, including self-objectification, body shame,
internalization of cultural beauty standards, eating disorder symptomatology, and
acculturative stress. Significant differences were found among the four sampling
locations for acculturation, F (3, 108) = 5.54, p = .001. However, significant differences
in age were also found among sample locations, F (3, 108) = 7.57, p < .001. Given that
age was also found to correlate significantly and negatively with acculturation, r -.31, p =
.001, it was controlled for in an ANCOVA with sampling location as the independent
variable and acculturation level as the dependent variable. After adjusting for age as a
covariate, no significant differences were found in acculturation among the different
sampling locations. It was therefore determined that differences in sampling procedure
did not significantly affect analyses.
With the exception of those instruments designed to measure cultural/ethnic
variables, psychometric data have not been reported on most of the study's instruments
with samples of women of color in the U.S. The present study will therefore provide
needed validity and reliability information for the use of these measures among Latinas.
Trait self-objectification was measured using both the Self-Objectification
Questionnaire (SOQ; Noll & Fredrickson, 1998) and the Body Surveillance subscale of
the Objectified Body Consciousness Scales (OBCS; McKinley & Hyde, 1996). The Body
Surveillance Scale of the OBCS was developed based on feminist theoretical concepts,
similar to objectification theory, about the social construction of the female body. The
Body Surveillance Scale contains 8 items scored on a Likert-type scale ranging from 1
(strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree) and is designed to measure the extent to which
one frequently watches one's appearance and thinks of one's body in terms of how it
looks. Item ratings are summed and a score of 0 is assigned to each "NA" response. The
sums are then divided by the total number of responses, not including "NA" or missing
responses. Scale scores can range from 1 to 7. Higher scores reflect greater body
surveillance. Two reverse coded items are "I think it is more important that my clothes
are comfortable than whether they look good on me" and "I think more about how my
body feels than how my body looks." The full instrument can be found in McKinely and
According to the interpretation guidelines provided by McKinley along with the
instrument, a person scoring high on the Body Surveillance Scale tends to self-inspect
frequently and thinks of her body in terms of its appearance. Scores on this subscale have
been used as a measure of self-objectification (Miner-Rubino et al., 2002) and habitual
body monitoring (Tiggeman & Lynch, 2001; Tiggeman & Slater, 2001). Fredrickson and
Roberts (1997) described the latter as an inherent aspect of self-objectification as it is a
form of taking on an outsider's perspective of one's body. Furthermore, due to the high
correlation between the SOQ and Body Surveillance Scales, Miner-Rubino et al.
formulated a composite score of self-objectification from these two scales. Therefore, the
use of the Body Surveillance Scale as a measure of self-objectification is supported by
In the initial development sample of 502 young adult women and 151 middle-aged
women, most of whom were White/European American, scores on the Body Surveillance
Scale showed good construct validity based on a significant negative correlation with
body esteem (McKinley & Hyde, 1996). McKinley (1998) examined the usefulness of the
OBCS for explaining gender differences in body esteem among a sample of 164 female
and 163 male mostly White/European American participants. For their sample, the Body
Surveillance Scale was found to have a significant negative correlation with body esteem
and a significant positive correlation with actual/ideal weight discrepancy. These
relations were stronger for women than for men. Across prior samples, alpha internal
consistency estimates for Body Surveillance were .89 (McKinley & Hyde), .79
(McKinley), .83 (Tiggeman & Slater, 2001), and .80 (Tiggeman & Lynch, 2001). In the
present sample, an alpha internal consistency estimate of .83 was found, which is similar
to previous findings and supports the internal consistency of body surveillance scores for
this sample of 112 Latinas.
The Self-Objectification Questionnaire (SOQ; Noll & Fredrickson, 1998) was
developed based on objectification theory and is designed to assess concern with
appearance without an evaluative component because self-objectification is purportedly
distinct from body satisfaction. Respondents are asked to rank-order a list of 5
appearance based body attributes (e.g., physical attractiveness, weight) and 5 competence
based body attributes (e.g., physical fitness, energy level) in terms of how important they
are to their physical self-concept (9 = most important, 0 = least important). Scores range
from -25 to 25 and are calculated by subtracting the sum of the competence ranks from
the sum of the appearance ranks. Higher scores reflect greater emphasis on appearance
and are interpreted as greater self-objectification. In their samples of 93 and 111 mostly
White/European American women, Noll and Fredrickson reported means of 7.7 (SD =
17.6) and 5.7 (SD = 18.4), respectively. They reported good construct validity for the
SOQ based on correlations with the Appearance Anxiety Scale (Dion, Dion, & Keelan,
1990) and with the Body Image Assessment (Williamson et al., 1985). No reliability data
has been reported for this measure in previous studies.
In the present sample, 5 participants (in addition to the 8 that were excluded from
the study) were missing substantial amounts of data on the SOQ because they did not
correctly follow the scoring instructions. These participants either did not rank one
attribute or ranked one attribute twice and thereby missed ranking another attribute.
According to the scoring instructions, such errors in ranking require that the data for that
participant be considered missing. Due to this high number of missing data and potential
participant confusion about SOQ instructions, compared to missing data for only 2
participants on the OBCS Surveillance Scale, it was decided that the SOQ would not be
used in the analyses. The OBCS Surveillance Scale was therefore used as the only
measure of self-objectification in the analyses as it has previously been shown to be a
valid and reliable measure of self-objectification and habitual body monitoring.
Body shame was measured using both the Body Shame Questionnaire (BSQ; Noll
& Fredrickson, 1998) and the Body Shame Scale, a subscale of the OBCS (McKinley &
Hyde, 1996). The Body Shame Scale of the OBCS assesses how likely one is to feel
badly about not fulfilling cultural expectations for one's body and higher scores indicate
greater body shame. It contains 8 items and is scored on a Likert-type scale ranging from
1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Item ratings are summed and a score of 0 is
assigned to each "NA" response. The sums are then divided by the total number of
responses, not including "NA" or missing responses. Scale scores can range from 1 to 7.
Items include "I feel like I must be a bad person when I don't look as good as I could"
and "I feel ashamed of myself when I haven't made the effort to look my best." The full
instrument can be found in McKinely and Hyde.
Similar to the Body Surveillance scores, Body Shame scores demonstrated good
construct validity based on a significant negative correlation with body esteem among a
sample of 502 young adult women and 151 middle-aged women (McKinley & Hyde,
1996). The Body Shame scores also were significantly positively correlated with eating
disorder symptoms for that sample. Furthermore, as expected, Body Shame scores
yielded a significant positive correlation with actual/ideal weight discrepancy and a
significant negative correlation with body esteem among a sample of 164 mostly
White/European American women (McKinley, 1998). In her sample, McKinley also
reported an alpha internal consistency estimate of .73 for the Body Shame scores. Across
other samples, Body Shame scores yielded alpha internal consistency estimates of .75
(McKinley & Hyde, 1998), .80 (Tiggeman & Lynch, 2001) and .85 (Tiggeman & Slater,
2001). The alpha internal consistency estimate for the present sample was .81.
The Body Shame Questionnaire (BSQ; Noll & Fredrickson, 1998) was designed as
a measure of how likely one is to feel ashamed about one's body. Respondents are asked
to indicate whether they would like to change a given body part, how strong their desire
for change is (intensity), and how often they think about changing that body part
(frequency). Composite scores are obtained by rating the frequency and intensity with
which one would like to change a list of 28 body attributes (e.g., weight, profile, and
height). Intensity ratings range from 1 to 9 (1 = very mild desire for change; 9 = very
intense desire for change), as do frequency ratings (1 = seldom thought of change; 9 =
very often thought of change). Total scores are obtained by summing standardized scores
derived from the total number of body attributes the respondent would like to change, the
total intensity rating scores, and the total frequency rating scores. Higher standardized
scores reflect increased body shame.
Mean standardized scores of .18 (SD = 2.8) and .01 (SD = 2.9) were reported on the
BSQ across two samples of mostly White/European American women (Noll &
Fredrickson, 1998). In terms of validity, the BSQ predicted unique variance in eating
disorder symptoms beyond that accounted for by other measures of general shame and
neuroticism (Noll & Fredrickson, 1998). In their sample of mostly White/European
college aged women, Fredrickson et al. (1998) reported an alpha internal consistency
estimate of .91 for the BSQ composite.
In the present sample, the BSQ was not used in the final analyses due to too many
errors made by participants in intensity and frequency ratings. A total of 23 participants
incorrectly made intensity and frequency ratings on body attributes that they had not
indicated were body attributes they would like to change. Data for these participants
would need to be excluded based on scoring criteria. As substantial amounts of data were
not missing from the Body Shame Scale of the OBCS and this instrument has been used
as a valid and reliable measure of body shame by other researchers, it was the only
measure of body shame used in the final analyses for the present study.
Eating Disorder Symptoms
The 26-item version of the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26; Garner, Olmsted, Bohr,
& Garfinkel, 1982) was developed from a factor analysis of the original 40-item EAT
(Garner & Garfinkel, 1979), which has been widely used as a reliable and valid measure
of eating disorder symptoms and body image disturbance. Items include "Feel extremely
guilty after eating" and "Vomit after I have eaten". The full EAT-26 can be found in
Garner et al. and online at http://river-center.org/information.html. In the original scoring
method, which is used for differentiating between clinical and nonclinical ranges, weights
of 1-3 are assigned to the three most severe item responses, ranging from "often" to
"always," with all other responses weighted 0. Overall scores range from 0 to 78 and are
obtained by weighting responses considered symptomatic, with scores above 20
considered to indicate the presence of an eating disorder. It has been argued that for
nonclinical research samples (as in the present study), it is best to use a continuous score
of the full 6-point scale ("never" to "always") in order to obtain a less skewed
distribution (Seiver, 1994). Additionally, in their review of assessment methods for eating
disorders, Kashubeck-West et al. (2001) recommended that continuous scoring be used
for research purposes. The present study followed this continuous scoring method, in
which items are scored on a Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (never) to 6 (always). Scale
scores are derived by summing item ratings and can range from 26 to 156.
EAT-26 scores are highly correlated with EAT-40 scores (r = .98) and a recent
review of eating disorder assessment tools identified the EAT-26 as a reliable and valid
measure of undifferentiated DSM-IV eating disorders (Kashubek-West et al., 2001) with
good concurrent and predictive validity in numerous studies. Internal consistency
reliability estimates have been reported for overall EAT-26 scores with coefficient alphas
of .83 (Koslowsky, Scheinberg, Bleich, Mark, Apter, Danon, Solomon, 1992) and .88
(Tiggeman & Slater, 2001) across samples. An alpha internal consistency estimate of .87
was found for the present sample.
Internalization of Cultural Beauty Standards
The Sociocultural Attitudes Toward Appearance Questionnaire (SATAQ;
Heinberg, Thompson, & Stormer, 1995) is a 14-item measure of women's awareness and
internalization of dominant Western cultural standards of thinness as beauty. Items are
scored on a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (completely disagree) to 5
(completely agree). The scale consists of two factors, Awareness of societal standards of
beauty for women and Internalization of such standards. The present study used the 8-
item Internalization subscale of the SATAQ to measure internalization of cultural beauty
standards. Item ratings are summed and total scores range from 8 to 40, with higher
scores reflecting greater awareness and internalization of this cultural beauty standard.
Items on the Internalization scale include "women who appear in TV shows and movies
project the type of appearance that I see as my goal" and "photographs of thin women
make me wish that I were thin." The full instrument can be found in Heinberg et al.
For a sample of 162 undergraduate university women, Heinberg et al. (1995)
reported good convergence between the SATAQ scores and scores on several measures
of body dissatisfaction and eating disorders, such as the Eating Disorders Inventory
(Garner, 1991) and the Multidimensional Body Self-Relations Questionnaire Physical
Appearance Evaluation scale (Brown et al., 1990). Heinberg et al. reported an alpha
coefficient of .93 for Internalization scores in a sample of 194 undergraduate university
women and .88 for another cross-validation sample of 150 undergraduate university
women. Other authors reported an alpha internal consistency estimate of .85 for the
Internalization subscale (Morry & Staska, 2001). Alpha internal consistency was .87 for
the present sample.
The Short Acculturation Scale for Hispanics (SASH; Marin, Sabogal, Marin,
Otero-Sabogal, & Perez-Stable, 1987) is a multidimensional measure of acculturation to
U.S. culture for use with people from various Latino cultures. The overall scale consists
of 12 items rated on a 5-point Likert-type scale. Item ratings are summed and overall
totals range from 12 to 60. Totals can then be averaged to yield scores ranging from 1 to
5. Higher scores reflect greater levels of acculturation and, according to Marin et al., a
cutoff score 2.99 can be used to differentiate between persons who are highly
acculturated from those who are less acculturated. The SASH assesses three aspects of
acculturation, including Language Use with five items, Media with three items, and
Ethnic Social Relations with four items. Sample questions include: "What languages) do
you usually speak at home?" (Language Use subscale); "In what languages) are the radio
programs you usually listen to?" (Media subscale); and "You prefer going to social
gatherings/parties at which the people are:" (Ethnic Social Relations subscale). The full
instrument can be found in Marin et al.
The normative sample for Marin et al. (1987) consisted of 363 Latinos/as and 228
non-Latino Whites. The Latinos/as in the sample consisted of 44% Mexican Americans,
6% Cuban Americans, 2% Puerto Ricans, and 47% Latinos from various Central
American countries. SASH scores demonstrated good convergent validity when
correlated with another acculturation index that assessed generation level, length of
residence in the U.S., and self-evaluation of acculturation level. SASH scores also
differentiated between Latinos and non-Latinos and correlated negatively with age of
arrival to the U.S. Marin et al. reported an alpha internal consistency reliability estimate
of .92 for overall SASH scores. An alpha internal consistency of .88 was found for the
The short 24-item version of the Social, Attitudinal, Familial, and Environmental
Acculturative Stress Scale (SAFE; Mena et al., 1987) was used to assess acculturative
stress. The short form of the SAFE was derived from the 17 items in the original 60-item
version (Padilla et al., 1985) that were found to differentiate between generations among
Japanese and Mexican American participants, with an additional 7 items that measure
perceived discrimination toward immigrant populations. Thus, in addition to assessing
experiences of acculturative stress within several different contexts, the short form of the
SAFE also assesses perceived discrimination. Respondents are asked to indicate how they
perceive cultural stress by answering questions scored on a 5-point Likert-type scale
ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). If respondents indicate that a
question does not apply to them, that item is scored 0. Item ratings are summed and total
scores can range from 0 to 120. Items include "Close family members and I have
conflicting expectations about my future" and "People look down upon me if I practice
customs of my culture." The full instrument can be found in Mena et al.
The normative group consisted of 96 women and 118 men. Eighty six participants
were first-generation, 37 were second-generation, 75 were third-generation, and 16 were
reported to be "mixed-generation." The ethnic/racial breakdown of first-generation
immigrant participants was as follows: 61 Asians, 9 Hispanics/Latinos, 7 Europeans, 4
Middle Easterners, 3 Canadians, 1 South African, and 1 Indian. In terms of validity, the
SAFE was found to differentiate between generation levels as well as between
immigrants who moved to the U.S. before age 12 and those who moved to the U.S. after
age 12 (Mena et al., 1987). An internal consistency reliability of .89 was reported for the
normative sample of ethnically diverse participants. Internal consistencies also have been
reported at .89 for Latinos (Fuertes & Westbrook, 1996) and .87 for a diverse group of
African Americans, Latinos, and White/European Americans (Perez et al., 2002). Similar
to previous results, an alpha internal consistency of .87 was found for this sample of
In addition to the battery of instruments, participants were asked several
demographic questions, including self-reported ethnic/racial identification,
socioeconomic class as reflected by average annual household income, age, sexual
orientation identification, country of birth, generation level, and age of arrival to the U.S.
if born in another country. They were also asked to report weight and height in order to
compute BMI using Quetelet's index of body mass (weight in kilograms divided by
height in meters squared), which has been reported as a reliable and valid measure of
body size (Garrow & Webster, 1985; Heymsfield, Allison, Heshka, & Pierson, 1995).
These demographic questions are presented in the Appendix and were included as the last
portion of the questionnaire.
Prior to analysis, all demographics and variables of interest were examined for
accuracy of data entry, missing values, and fit between their distributions and the
assumptions of multivariate analysis. The assumption of normality was met by verifying
that there was no significant skewness or kurtosis, as well as inspection of histograms and
normal and detrended probability plots. Linearity and homoscedasticity were verified by
inspection of bivariate scatterplots. Inspection of the correlation matrix revealed no
bivariate correlations above .70 among the variables of interest, indicating that
multicollinearity did not exist.
Links between demographic variables and other variables of interest were
examined using ANOVA for categorical variables and Pearson product moment
correlations for continuous variables in order to identify potential covariates to be entered
in subsequent analyses. This examination revealed significant negative correlations
between increased age and three variables of interest; acculturation, r = -.31, p = .001,
internalization of cultural beauty standards, r = .35 p < .001, and self-objectification as
measured by the OBCS Body Surveillance Scale, r = -.30,p = .001. Additionally,
significant positive correlations were found between actual body size as measured by
Body Mass Index (BMI) and body shame, r = .25, p = .009. Therefore, age and BMI
were included as covariates in all analyses to adjust for their links when testing
hypotheses. The variables of interest were not related significantly to any other
demographic variables (e.g., socioeconomic status, sexual orientation).
Descriptive statistics for the current sample (see Table 4-1) were generally
comparable to sample means presented in previous studies. More specifically, the present
sample's mean for Body Surveillance was 4.34 (SD = 1.15) which is comparable to the
mean of 4.82 (no standard deviation reported) obtained with a sample of 156 mostly
White/European American women (McKinley, 1998). In the same study, McKinley
reported a mean score of 3.46 (but no standard deviation) for the Body Shame Scale. The
present sample of Latina women had a mean score of 3.01 (SD = 1.27), which was
similar to, though slightly lower than, that reported by McKinley. The mean EAT-26
score for the current sample was 59.82 (SD = 16.19), which is similar to previous results
(M= 69.75, SD = 16.76) for heterosexual women, using the same continuous scoring
method (Seiver, 1994). Among the women in their sample, Morry and Staska (2001)
reported a mean score of 22.89 (SD = 6.32) on the Internalization scale of the SATAQ.
Similarly, a mean score of 23.34 (SD = 7.22) was found in the present sample. Thus,
overall, descriptive data for the present sample on eating disorder-related constructs were
comparable to that found in previous samples.
The present sample's mean acculturation score was comparable to previous
samples of women with at least some college education. Marin et al. (1987) reported
SASH acculturation mean scores of 2.69 (standard deviations were not reported) for
Latina women in their normative community based sample. The mean level of education
for all Latino/Hispanic participants in the normative sample was 12.3 years. The current
sample's mean score of 3.55 (SD = .57) was somewhat higher than that reported by
Marin et al. for their community based sample, but was comparable to mean scores found
in other studies with educational levels comparable to that of the present sample. For
example, Caldera, Robitschek, Frame,and Pannell (2003) reported a mean SASH
acculturation score of 3.49 (SD = .60) in their sample of 98 Mexican American college
women. Similarly, in a young, mostly female sample with either some college or college
degree, Valentine (2001) reported a mean SASH acculturation score of 3.30 (SD= .77).
With regard to acculturative stress scores, Mena et al. (1987) reported a mean score
of 30.2 on the SAFE for their mixed gender and ethnically diverse normative sample of
college students. Perez et al. also found a mean score (M= 30.48, SD = 14.16) among
their ethnically diverse sample of college women. The mean acculturative stress score on
the SAFE for the present sample of Latina women was 47.16 (SD = 9.77), which is
somewhat higher than that found by Mena et al. (1987) and by Perez et al. (2002).
However, Mena et al. and Perez et al. examined acculturative stress in ethnically diverse
samples and the present study's results are consistent with the higher mean SAFE scores
found in other studies conducted specifically on Latino immigrant samples. For example,
Miranda and Matheny (2000) reported a SAFE mean score of 78.3 (SD = 11.6) in their
sample of primarily immigrant generation Latinos from various Latin American countries
and Hovey and Magafia (2002) reported a mean of 56.4 (SD = 19.7) on the SAFE in their
sample of Mexican migrant farm workers. Hovey (2000) also reported a mean SAFE
score of 49.90 (SD = 18.56) among 76 Mexican immigrant women enrolled in ESL
classes at a community college. In their theoretical review of research on acculturation
and acculturative stress, Smart and Smart (1995) suggested that Latinos may have higher
average acculturative stress levels than other immigrant populations due to multilevel
sociopolitical and sociocultural stressors. Therefore, it seems reasonable that the mean
SAFE score for the current Latina women sample would be somewhat higher than that
found in the ethnically diverse normative sample, even though both were primarily
Interrelations Among Variables of Interest
To provide an initial examination of preconditions for the mediational hypotheses,
interrelations among the variables of interest were examined using partial correlations,
controlling for age and BMI (see Table 4-1). As described by Baron and Kenny (1986),
in order for a variable to be considered a mediator, the following three criteria must be
met: (a) the predictor and mediator must be related significantly, (b) the mediator and
criterion must be related significantly, and (c) the predictor and criterion must be related
significantly. Preliminary inspection of the data based on these correlations indicated that
preconditions for Hypothesis 1 were not met. Preconditions for Hypothesis 2 and
Hypothesis 3 were met.
The expected positive relation of acculturation with internalization of cultural
beauty standards was not significant and, therefore, an indirect (i.e., mediated) link from
acculturation, through internalization of cultural beauty standards, to self-objectification,
body shame, and eating disorder symptoms could not be tested.
Internalization of cultural beauty standards was expected to relate directly and
positively to self-objectification, to body shame, and to eating disorder symptomatology.
Furthermore, the link from internalization to eating disorder symptomatology was
expected to be mediated partially by both self-objectification and body shame. Consistent
with these expectations, partial correlations indicated significant positive links from
internalization of cultural beauty standards to self-objectification, body shame, and eating
disorder symptoms. Also, the mediational roles of self-objectification and body shame in
the relation of internalization of cultural beauty standards to eating disorder symptoms
received initial support. According to the correlational data presented in Table 4-1, all
three criteria are satisfied for the mediations. In other words, in addition to the significant
positive links from internalization to all three variables, significant positive relations were
found between self-objectification and eating disorder symptoms as well as between body
shame and eating disorder symptoms. Thus, the significance of these mediations could be
tested (described under path analyses).
Hypothesis 3 proposed that self-objectification would be related to eating disorder
symptoms and that this relation would be partially mediated by body shame. Partial
correlations indicated that self-objectification was significantly and positively related to
both body shame and eating disorder symptoms. Body shame and eating disorder
symptoms were also significantly and positively linked. Thus, preconditions for
Hypothesis 3 were met and the significance of the mediation could be tested (described
under path analyses).
Hypothesis 4 called for an exploratory analysis of the relation of acculturative
stress to all other variables of interest. Initial inspection of partial correlations suggested
that acculturative stress was related to both body shame and eating disorder symptoms.
Based on Baron & Kenny's (1986) recommendations regarding mediational relationships,
it may be that acculturative stress was related indirectly to eating disorders through the
mediational role of body shame. This and other direct and indirect links were then
examined through path analysis. Acculturative stress also had a significant negative
correlation with acculturation, which is consistent with the definitions of these two
constructs as well as with prior research (e.g., Berry, 2003; Hovey & Magafia, 2002).
Test of Originally Hypothesized Model
Path analysis using AMOS 5.0 (Arbuckle, 2003) was used to test the fit of the data
to the proposed model (presented in Figure 2-1) and allow for testing the significance of
mediations for which preconditions were met. As mentioned previously, age and BMI
were controlled as covariates in the model. Maximum likelihood estimation was used
with the covariance matrix of the variables of interest as input. Figure 4-1 presents the
results for Model 1 (the originally proposed model) with all standardized path
coefficients. Several goodness-of-fit indices for Model 1 were indicative of a good-fitting
model, including the Goodness-of-Fit index (GFI) = .99, Comparative Fit Index (CFI) =
1.00, Non-Normed Fit Index (also known as Tucker-Lewis Index [NNFI/TLI]) = 1.06,
and Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA) = .00. Recommended values
of> .90 for GFI, CFI, and NFI indicate a good-fitting model, while RMSEA is
recommended to be at or below a value of .05 (Kline, 1998). The NNFI/TLI is considered
to be one of the fit indices least affected by sample size and can be valued above 1, unlike
GFI and CFI, which vary between 0 and 1.
The overall model accounted for 44% of the variance in eating disorder symptoms,
31% of the variance in body shame, 22% of the variance in self-objectification, and 13%
of the variance in internalization of cultural beauty standards. As shown in Figure 4-1,
direct paths from internalization of cultural beauty standards to self-objectification, body
shame, and eating disorders all were significant and positive. Direct paths from self-
objectification to body shame and eating disorders, as well as from body shame to eating
disorders, also were significant and positive. These results indicated that the originally
hypothesized model was mostly supported by the data, with some modifications. More
specifically, all expected relations were consistent with the data, with the exception that
relations of acculturation to the other variables of interest, as predicted by Hypothesis 1,
were not supported.
Modified Model Including Acculturative Stress
Although Model 1 was a good fit and explained a total of 44% of the variance in
eating disorder symptomatology, there was no significant unique link from acculturation
to internalization of cultural beauty standards, as expected in the hypothesized model. In
light of this finding and to explore the role of acculturative stress in the model, a new
model was created that incorporated acculturative stress based on an examination of the
partial correlation matrix and the results of Model 1. This alternative model, identified as
Model 2, included all the expected direct and indirect paths from internalization of
cultural beauty standards to self-objectification, body shame, and eating disorder
symptoms that were proposed in Hypotheses 2 and 3 and that were substantiated in
Model 1. In addition, Model 2 included direct paths from acculturative stress to body
shame and eating disorder symptomatology as well as an indirect link from acculturative
stress to eating disorder symptoms, through body shame. As with Model 1, BMI and age
were controlled as covariates in the path analysis. Figure 4-2 represents Model 2,
including all standardized path coefficients.
Goodness-of-fit indices were indicative of a good-fitting model (GFI = .99, CFI=
1.00, NNFI/TLI = .98, RMSEA = .04). Similar to Model 1, the model accounted for 44%
of the variance in eating disorder symptoms, 35% of the variance in body shame (an
increase from the 31% accounted for by Model 1), and 22% of the variance in self-
objectification. As can be seen in Figure 4-2, all standardized path coefficients were
significant, indicating significant unique direct links. In addition to the direct links found
in Model 1, direct paths from acculturative stress to body shame and to eating disorder
symptoms also were significant and positive. According to these results, the direct links
predicted in Hypotheses 2 and 3 were consistent with the result of the path analyses. That
is, internalization of cultural beauty standards was related directly and positively to self-
objectification, which, in turn, was related directly and positively to body shame, which,
in turn, was related directly and positively to eating disorder symptoms. Additionally,
internalization of cultural beauty standards also was related directly and positively to
body shame and eating disorder symptoms. Self-objectification also was related directly
and positively to eating disorder symptoms. Not specifically hypothesized, but explored
as proposed in Hypothesis 4, acculturative stress was related directly and positively to
body shame as well as eating disorder symptoms.
Testing Significance of Mediations
The significance of mediational relations proposed in the hypotheses were tested
using the path coefficients for Model 2 as this model contained all possible significant
relations among variables. Cohen and Cohen (1983) recommended multiplication of path
coefficients to compute magnitude of indirect links. This procedure was used along with
Sobel's formula (Baron & Kenny, 1986; Sobel, 1982) for calculating the significance of
indirect links, which indicates significance of mediation. As proposed in Hypothesis 2,
internalization of cultural beauty standards, through self-objectification as a mediator,
had a significant indirect link of .12 (.35 x .34; z = 2.89,p = .004) with body shame and a
significant indirect link of .07 (.35 x .21; z = 2.15, p = .031) with eating disorder
symptoms. Consistent with Hypothesis 3, self-objectification, through body shame as a
mediator, had a significant indirect link of .07 (.34 x .22; z = 2.12, p = .034) with eating
disorder symptoms. Acculturative stress, through body shame as a mediator, had a
significant indirect link of .06 (.26 x .22; z = 1.93, p = .05) with eating disorder
Thus, all of the expected mediations predicted by Hypotheses 2 and 3 were
supported by the data. An additional indirect link from acculturative stress to eating
disorder symptoms through body shame as a mediator was also found. The indirect links
predicted in Hypothesis 1 could not be tested and were not supported given that
acculturation was not related significantly to any of the other variables of interest.
Summary of Findings
As predicted by Hypothesis 2, internalization of cultural beauty standards was
related directly and positively to self-objectification, body shame, and eating disorder
symptomatology. Also as predicted by Hypothesis 2, the link between internalization of
cultural beauty standards and eating disorder symptoms was mediated partially by self-
objectification and body shame. As predicted by Hypothesis 3, self-objectification was
related positively and directly to eating disorders symptoms and this link also was
mediated partially by body shame. Hypothesis 4 called for an exploration of the link
between acculturative stress and the other variables of interest. Acculturative stress was
related directly and positively to eating disorder symptoms and this relation was mediated
partially by body shame. Acculturation was not related to any of the other variables of
Table 4-1. Summary Statistics and Partial Correlations
Age and BMI Controlled (N=112)
Among Variables of Interest with
Variables 1 2 3 4 5 6 Possible Sample M SD oc
1. Self- 1-7 1.00- 4.33 1.15 .83
2. Internalization .35** 8-40 8.00- 23.34 7.22 .87
3. Body shame .44** .36** 1-7 1.00- 3.01 1.27 .81
4. Eating disorder .45** .54** .49** 26-156 31.00- 59.82 16.19 .87
5. Acculturation .01 .04 -.06 -.06 1-5 2.25- 3.55 .57 .88
6. Acculturative .13 .09 .33** .26* -.38** 0-120 28.00- 47.16 9.77 .87
Note. *p < .005. **p <.001. Higher scores indicate higher levels of the construct assessed.
Figure 4-1. Model 1, controlling for BMI and age, with standardized path coefficients
shown. All paths are significant at p < .05.
Figure 4-2. Model 2, controlling for BMI and age, with standardized path coefficients.
All paths are significant atp < .05.
The literature has provided extensive support for an integration of sociocultural
factors in understanding the etiology of eating disorders among women (Gordon, 2001;
Groesz et al., 2002; Rodin et al., 1984; Pate et al., 1992; Stice, 1994; Striegel-Moore &
Cachelin, 2001; Vandereycken & Hoek, 1992). Objectification theory (Fredrickson &
Roberts, 1997) combines the empirical and theoretical support for such an understanding
into a testable model of the sociocultural factors that may shape eating disorder
symptomatology in women. Support has accumulated for several of the propositions of
objectification theory; specifically, that sexually objectifying cultural contexts for women
may lead to self-objectification (Fredrickson et al., 1998; Moradi et al., 2005; Morry &
Staska, 2001) and that self-objectification predicts eating disorder symptomatology both
directly and indirectly, through the mediating role of body shame (Fredrickson et al.;
Moradi et al.; Morry & Staska; Noll & Fredrickson, 1998; Tiggeman & Lynch, 2001;
Tiggeman & Slater, 2001). The most recent studies on objectification theory have also
integrated internalization of cultural beauty standards into the model and it appears that
this internalization may be the mechanism by which sexually objectifying cultural
contexts shape self-objectification in women (Moradi et al.; Morry & Staska).
Although recent reported incidence rates of eating disorders among women of color
have increased (Crago et al., 1996; Striegel-Moore & Smolak, 2000), most of the
research on objectification theory and its correlates has been conducted on primarily
White/European American women. The present study addressed this gap in the literature
by extending objectification theory to a model applicable for Latina women. No prior
research has specifically examined the tenets of objectification theory in Latinas. All of
the hypothesized relations among variables specific to objectification theory, as well as
internalization of cultural beauty standards, were supported by the results for this sample
of Latina women. Acculturative stress was also found to play a significant role in
understanding eating disorder symptoms in the present sample. Accordingly, the results
of this study indicate that objectification theory can be applied to Latinas, with the added
culturally relevant variables of internalization of cultural beauty standards and
Similar to previous findings among samples of mostly White/European American
women (Fredrickson et al., 1998; Moradi et al.,2005; Morry & Staska, 2001; Noll &
Fredrickson, 1998; Tiggeman & Lynch, 2001; Tiggeman & Slater, 2001), results with the
present sample of Latina women indicated that each of the variables relevant to
objectification theory (i.e., self-objectification, body shame, and the most recently
incorporated variable of internalization of cultural beauty standards) are related directly
and uniquely to eating disorder symptomatology. Additionally, the present results
suggested that self-objectification and body shame also partially mediated the link of
internalization of cultural beauty standards to eating disorder symptoms. Based on these
findings and the results of previous research, it appears that for Latinas as well as for
White/European American women, increased internalization of cultural beauty standards
is related to increased self-objectification, which is linked with increased body shame,
which, in turn, is related to eating disorder symptoms. In addition to this series of
mediated links, internalization, self-objectification, and body shame each are related
uniquely and directly to eating disorder symptomatology.
Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) proposed that objectification theory is applicable to
women of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds to the extent that all women,
regardless of ethnicity, are embedded within patriarchal, sexually objectifying cultural
contexts. The current findings indicate that this proposition may be true, at least in
extending objectification theory to Latinas. However, the results of this study also
suggest that the ethnocultural variable of acculturative stress is an important addition to
objectification theory in extending its applicability to understanding eating disorder
symptomatology among Latinas. The results indicated that acculturative stress was
related significantly and uniquely to both greater body shame and eating disorder
symptoms among Latinas. Furthermore, body shame was a partial mediator of the link
from acculturative stress to eating disorder symptoms in the present sample of Latinas.
These results are consistent with the only other known study that examined the role of
acculturative stress in eating disorders, in which acculturative stress was found to
contribute to variance in bulimia symptoms (Perez et al., 2002). The present results
suggest that acculturative stress is an important sociocultural factor associated with both
body shame and eating disorder symptomatology in Latinas and should be included as an
additional component when examining objectification theory among Latinas.
Contrary to the significant role of acculturative stress in the present results,
hypothesized relations between acculturation and the other variables under study were
not supported. Acculturation was expected to relate positively and directly to
internalization of cultural beauty standards and indirectly to increased self-objectification,
body shame, and eating disorder symptoms. These expectations were based on past
research suggesting that acculturation may be related positively with eating disorder
symptoms (Cachelin et al., 2000; Chamorro & Flores-Ortiz, 2000; Franko & Herrera,
1997; Pumariega, 1986). However, most of the previous studies that found a positive link
between acculturation and eating disorder symptoms examined acculturation either very
narrowly (Cachelin et al.), measuring acculturation based primarily on generation level
and English language preference, or used measures of acculturation that are not well
validated (Franko & Herrera; Pumariega). In a review of research on ethnic differences in
eating disorders, Gilbert (2003) postulated that one of the various limitations of eating
disorder research among women of color is inconsistency in the use of valid acculturation
measures and that improper measurement of acculturation fails to consider the
multidimensional aspects of acculturation. In addition, even when a well-validated
measure of acculturation was used (Chamorro & Flores-Ortiz), analyses did not control
for the important role of BMI when examining the relation between acculturation and
eating disorder symptoms.
The present study used a measure of acculturation that has been well validated and
has been used extensively in acculturation research (SASH; Marin et al., 1987). The
present study also accounted for the role of BMI and used path analytic techniques to
assess more complex interrelationships among all of the variables under study. Indeed,
Lester and Petrie (1995) found similar results when they also measured acculturation with
a well-validated measure (ARSMA; Cuellar et al., 1980) and conducted regression
analyses accounting for the role of both BMI and sociocultural beliefs about
attractiveness (a construct comparable to internalization of cultural beauty standards).
Their findings, similar to the present study, indicated that acculturation did not account
for unique variance in bulimia symptoms among their sample of Mexican American
undergraduate university women, though both BMI and sociocultural beliefs about
attractiveness did. Another study conducted with a sample of Mexican American
adolescent girls similarly did not find a link between acculturation and eating disorder
symptoms (Joiner & Kashubeck, 1996).
The lack of a significant relationship in the current study between acculturation and
either internalization of cultural beauty standards or eating disorders may have been due
to a true lack of relationship between these variables, once the roles of BMI and age are
considered. On the other hand, the current sample had a high mean acculturation score on
the SASH compared to the normative sample, perhaps indicating that this sample of
Latinas is not representative of the full range of acculturation among the U.S. population
of Latinas. Consequently, this study should be replicated with a sample having a wider
range of acculturation scores in order to determine whether restricted range may have
affected the current results. Nevertheless, the accumulated knowledge seems to suggest
that either there is not a true relationship between acculturation and eating disorders or
that the relationship is complex and is subsumed by the roles of BMI, age, internalization
of cultural beauty standards, and acculturative stress.
Furthermore, it appears that the stress associated with the acculturation process
(rather than acculturation in general) is a critical variable to consider in extending
objectification theory to Latinas. The current findings indicate that it is not the process of
becoming more acculturated to U.S. society that is related to Latina women's levels of
body shame and eating disorder symptoms, but rather the extent to which that process is
experienced as stressful that is linked to increased body shame and increased tendency to
exhibit eating disorder symptoms. This interpretation also is supported by Moyerman and
Forman (1992), who conducted a meta-analysis of research on the relationship between
acculturation and various adjustment variables, including self-esteem, locus of control,
family conflict, anxiety/stress, intelligence, and psychosocial/health. Based on an
examination of overall effect sizes, they concluded that acculturation did not have a
consistent relationship with any of the adjustment measures. They also concluded that
anxiety/stress was highest at the beginning of the acculturation process and decreased
with greater acculturation, which is consistent with the concept of acculturative stress as
well as with the significant negative correlation found in this study between the two
variables. It is important to note, however, that despite a significant negative correlation
between acculturation and acculturative stress, the mean scores for both of these scales
were somewhat high for the present sample. This indicates, as has been proposed by other
authors (Smart & Smart, 1995), that acculturative stress may be a particularly relevant
mental health concern for Latinas in general and in particular as a risk factor for eating
disorders, even among those who are highly acculturated.
Additionally, neither acculturative stress nor acculturation was linked to
internalization of cultural beauty standards in the current sample. It has been proposed
that the risk for developing eating disorders in women of color may relate to attempts to
emulate a beauty ideal based on White/European American standards of beauty
(Thompson, 1996). This might mean that either acculturation or acculturative stress,
perhaps experienced from comparing oneself to White/European American beauty
standards, might be associated with internalization of cultural beauty standards. The
current results indicate that neither general acculturation nor acculturative stress is related
to internalization of cultural beauty standards. It may thus be argued that such
internalization is more likely, as found by both Moradi et al. (2005) and Morry and
Staska (2001), to occur uniquely from gender related sexually objectifying cultural
experiences in which all women in general find themselves. Therefore, as postulated by
Fredrickson and Roberts (1997), the results of this study suggest that Latina women may
be as likely to self-objectify as White/European American women and in turn be at risk
for body shame and eating disorders due to being embedded within a sexually
objectifying patriarchal cultural context. The present results indicate that, in addition to
internalization of cultural beauty standards and self-objectification, acculturative stress is
an important risk factor for both body shame and eating disorders among Latinas and
should be considered in any examination of the cultural factors associated with eating
disorders for Latinas.
Limitations and Future Directions
Although the current study adds to research supporting objectification theory by
extending its applicability to Latina women, several limitations should be considered
when interpreting its findings. As mentioned above, the somewhat high average
acculturation level of this sample may have affected the lack of an observed relationship
between acculturation and other variables of interest. On the other hand, the research on
the relationship between acculturation and eating disorders is equivocal and more clarity
on the association between these variables would be provided by continued research
using appropriately validated measures of acculturation. The effects of age in this sample
were an interesting finding that were not specifically hypothesized and lends further
support to previous findings that self-objectification tends to decrease with increased age
(Greenleaf, 2005). More research is needed on the relationship between age and the
variables associated with objectification theory.
Another limitation of this study was the use of self-reported weight and height to
make calculations about actual body size through BMI. The potential exists for
inaccuracy in self-reports and future studies should be conducted in which women are
actually weighed using a scale and have their heights measured as well. On the other
hand, this limitation exists for the majority of eating disorder research and Heymsfield et
al. (1995) recommended BMI as a practical self-report measure of human body
composition given that most people tend to know their approximate height and weight
and any potential systematic bias would be unimportant in studies where BMI is
correlated with other variables. It is also important to recognize that, though path analytic
research is helpful in assessing complex relationships among several variables and in
determining which relationships among the variables are the most important, the results
are still correlational. Experimental research is needed to test the inferences about the
direction of the relationships from internalization of cultural beauty standards to self-
objectification, to body shame, and to eating disorder symptoms, as well as from
acculturative stress to body shame and to eating disorder symptoms.
Although the present study begins to provide support for the applicability of
objectification theory to women of color, these results can only be generalized to women
of Latino/Hispanic background. Therefore, future research should attempt to replicate the
current findings in women of other ethnic/cultural groups, taking into consideration any
other variables that may be of particular interest in that population. It would also be
interesting to replicate this study with samples of women whose backgrounds are from
different Latin American countries as well as examine differences among Latinas of
varying racial compositions. As was noted by responses to the demographic question
about ethnic/racial self-identification, not all Latinas self-identify as just "Latina." More
research is also needed on the factors that contribute to eating disorders in men.
Another related issue is that these results are only generalizable to nonclinical
populations and primarily college students. However, it has been found that Latinas are
less likely to be identified as having an eating disorder when symptoms exist (Gordon,
Perez, & Joiner, 2002) and have differential access to treatment for eating disorders
(Becker, Franko, Speck, & Herzog, 2003). Therefore, clinical samples of Latinas may not
capture the full extent of the impact of self-objectification and related variables on eating
disorders among Latinas. Epidemiological research is needed to examine the prevalence
of eating disorders among Latinas as well as other women of color. It was relevant to the
purpose of this study to recruit a community-based sample in addition to university
students and future research could also focus either primarily or exclusively on
community-based samples. Conducting similar research with clinical samples would also
provide an understanding of the relevance of objectification theory among Latinas who
are in treatment for eating disorders.
This study extends the research on eating disorders in general and objectification
theory in particular by providing a comprehensive model that can be applied to the
understanding of eating disorders among Latina women. The current results highlight the
important role that acculturative stress may play in eating disorders among Latinas and
further research is needed in this area. Acculturative stress research in general is in early
development and only one previous study was found that evaluated the role of
acculturative stress in eating disorders (Perez et al., 2002). Future research could focus on
which factors contribute to acculturative stress and which aspects of acculturative stress
affect eating disorders.
Implications for Practice
This research also has important implications for clinical practice. Clinicians
should be aware of the extent to which the women they work with, including Latinas,
have internalized cultural standards of beauty, especially for those who clearly have
experienced examples of sexually objectifying contexts, such as incest, sexual assault, or
harassment. Women should be educated about the potential mental health consequences
of internalization of cultural beauty standards, including self-objectification and body
shame, which can then lead to eating disorder symptoms. For clinicians working with
Latinas in particular, it is important to understand the role of acculturative stress in body
shame and eating disorder symptoms. The results of this study indicate that acculturation
may not play a significant role in eating disorders. Therefore, Latinas from all
acculturation levels may be at comparable levels of risk for developing eating disorders.
However, clinicians should attend to the various sociocultural stressors that Latinas they
work with have experienced and how these may contribute to acculturative stress and by
extension to body shame and eating disorders.
The following questions are for demographic purposes, to get a sense of who you are.
Please fill in your responses or circle the number for the appropriate response to each
1. Age 2. Sex/Gender 3. Height 4. Weight
5. How would YOU describe your ethnicity/race? (If multiracial, mark all that apply.)
1 = African-American/Black (non-Hispanic)
2 = American Indian or Alaskan Native
3 = Asian or Pacific-Islander
4 = European-American/White (non-Hispanic)
5 = Latina(o)/Hispanic White
6 = Latina(o)/Hispanic Black
7 = Other (Specify: )
6. How would OTHERS describe your ethnicity/race? (If multiracial, mark all that
1 = African-American/Black (non-Hispanic)
2 = American Indian or Alaskan Native
3 = Asian or Pacific-Islander
4 = European-American/White (non-Hispanic)
5 = Latina(o)/Hispanic White
6 = Latina(o)/Hispanic Black
7 = Other (Specify:
7. What is your estimated average household income? (Refer to your parents' income
level if you live with them or are a dependent).
1 = below $15,000 annually
2 = $15,000 $20,000 annually
3 = $21,000 $30,000 annually
4 = $31,000 $50,000 annually
5 = $51, 000 $100,000 annually
6 = $101,000 $200,000 annually
7 = above $200,000 annually
8. What is your sexual orientation?
1 = heterosexual
2 = gay or lesbian
3 = bisexual
4 = transgendered or other
9. Where were you born?
1 = U.S.A. (not including Puerto Rico)
2 = Mexico
3 = Cuba
4 = Puerto Rico
5 = Central/South America (Specify Country:
6 = Other (Specify Country:
10. Where were your parents born? (If parents were each born in different countries,
circle both and indicate each by writing in an "M" next to your mother's country of birth
and an "F" next to your father's country of birth.)
1 = U.S.A. (not including Puerto Rico)
2 = Mexico
3 = Cuba
4 = Puerto Rico
5 = Central/South America (Specify Country: )
6 = Other (Specify Country: )
11. Answer this question only if you were born in the U.S. Please indicate whether you
1 = 1st generation (parents not born in the US)
2 = 2nd generation American (parents were the first
in their families born in the US)
3 = 3rd generation American (grandparents were the
first in their families born in the US)
4 = Other (family has been in the US for more than 3
12. If you were born outside of the U.S., at what age did you first arrive?
13. How well do you read and understand English?
1 = very poorly
2 = poorly
3 = fairly well
4 = well
5 = very well
14. Based on your level of English reading ability, do you feel that you understood the
questions in this survey enough to provide accurate responses?
1 = Yes
2 = No
LIST OF REFERENCES
Altabe, M. (1998). Ethnicity and body image: Quantitative and qualitative analysis.
International Journal ofEating Disorders, 23, 153-159.
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic & statistical manual of mental
disorders. (4th ed., text revision). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric
Arbuckle, J. L. (2003). Amos (Version 5.0) [Computer software]. Chicago: SmallWaters
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I am a Cuban American raised in Miami, FL. I completed my undergraduate studies
at the University of Florida, where I graduated with honors in 1997 with a Bachelor of
Science in psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in sociology. I then attended the University
of Miami and obtained a Master of Science in Education for mental health counseling in
1999. My psychotherapy training at the University of Miami included practicum
experiences in its university-based community mental health center as well as at a
transitional living facility for persons with severe mental illness. I returned to the
University of Florida in Fall of 1999 to complete a Doctor of Philosophy degree in
counseling psychology. I continued with practical training experiences at the University
Counseling Center and at a forensic state psychiatric hospital. I also gained research
knowledge and experience working in projects on emotional expressiveness, roles in the
family environment, and posttraumatic stress among car crash survivors. I completed my
first original research with a master's level thesis equivalency on body image and
acculturation among Latinas.
I have expanded on that research with the present dissertation study on the role of
objectification theory and other sociocultural variables in eating disorder
symptomatology among Latinas. I also continued my practical training with an internship
at a community mental health center servicing low-income, multicultural, primarily
Latino/Hispanic clients in Brooklyn, New York. After completing the one-year pre-
doctoral internship, I have remained in New York for the past year and a half and
continue to work in Brooklyn at an outpatient chemical dependency center affiliated with
the institution where I completed my internship and servicing a similar population. I
specialize in working with co-occuring substance abuse and mental health issues,
including eating disorders, as well as with women's issues, multicultural issues,
posttraumatic stress, domestic violence, and survivors of sexual assault and abuse. I
consider myself a scientist-practitioner and have applied what I learned in completing this
dissertation within my professional psychotherapy work.