Racial/Ethnic Differences in Body Mass Index: The Roles of Beliefs About Thinness and Dietary Restriction

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Racial/ethnic differences, Thin-ideal internalization, Body mass, Dietary restriction

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The greater BMI of African American relative to Caucasian women is implicated in racial/ethnic disparities in health outcomes. The principal aim of the current study was to evaluate a theoretical account of racial/ethnic differences in BMI. Thin-ideal internalization, the perceived romantic appeal of thinness, dietary restriction, weight, and height were assessed via self-report measures on a sample of female undergraduates of African American (n = 140) and Caucasian (n = 676) race/ethnicity. Using structural equation modeling, support was obtained for the primary hypothesis that racial/ethnic differences in BMI are explained by Caucasian women's greater thin-ideal internalization and perceived romantic appeal of thinness, thereby resulting in greater levels of dietary restriction. Current findings illustrate the potential for racial/ethnic differences in sociocultural standards of appearance to influence racial/ethnic disparities in physical health, of which BMI is a marker, via effects on weight control behavior.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Body Image, v. 5, issue 3, p. 291-298