Correlates of Ideal Body Size Among Black and White Adolescents

  • Nicole Nollen
  • Harsohena Kaur
  • Kim Pulvers
  • Won Choi
  • Marian Fitzgibbon
  • Chaoyang Li
  • Niaman Nazir
  • Jasjit S. Ahluwalia
Original Article

Cultural differences have been found in body image perceptions among Black and White adolescents, however little is known about the factors associated with perceptions of an ideal body size (IBS). This study examined differences in correlates of IBS among 265 Black (116 girls and 62 boys) and White (63 girls and 24 boys) adolescents. IBS for White girls and boys was related to perceptions of how their parents wanted them to look, while IBS for Black girls was related to perception of how peers look and would like to look. IBS for Black boys was significantly related to perceptions of their current size, how peers would like to look, how parents think they look, and depressive symptoms. Findings suggest cultural differences in the factors related to body image perceptions and have implications for educational programs promoting healthy body image development among Black and White adolescents.


ideal body size cultural differences Black and White adolescents 


  1. Adams, K., Sargent, R. G., Thompson, S. H., Richter, D., Corwin, S. J., and Rogan, T. J. (2000). A study of body weight concerns and weight control practices of 4th and 7th grade adolescents. Ethnicity Health 5(1): 79–94.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Choi, W. S., Patten, C. A., Gillin, J. C., Kaplan, R. M., and Pierce, J. P. (1997). Cigarette smoking predicts development of depressive symptoms among U.S. adolescents. Ann. Behav. Med. 19(1): 42–50.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Courneya, K. S., and McAuley, E. (1995). Reliability and discriminant validity of subjective norm, social support, and cohesion in an exercise setting. J. Sport Exerc. Psychol. 17: 325–337.Google Scholar
  4. Cutrona, C. E., and Russell, D. (1987). The provision of social relationships and adaptation to stress. In Jones, W. H., and Perlman, D. (eds.), Advances in Personal Relationships (Vol. 1). JAI Press, Greenwich, CT, pp. 37–67.Google Scholar
  5. Desmond, S. M., Price, J. H., Hallinan, C., and Smith, D. (1989). Black and White adolescents’ perceptions of their weight. J. School Health 59(8): 353–358.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Duncan, T. E., McAuley, E., Stoolmiller, M., and Duncan, S. C. (1993). Serial fluctuations in exercise behavior as a function of social support and efficacy cognitions. J. Appl. Psychol. 23(18): 1498–1522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fairburn, C. G., Welch, S. L., Doll, H. A., Davies, B. A., and O’Connor, M. E. (1997). Risk factors for bulimia nervosa. A community-based case-control study. Arch. Gen. Psychiatr. 54(6): 509–517.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Field, A. E., Camargo, C. A., Jr., Taylor, C. B., Berkey, C. S., Roberts, S. B., and Colditz, G. A. (2001). Peer, parent, and media influences on the development of weight concerns and frequent dieting among preadolescent and adolescent girls and boys. Pediatrics 107(1): 54–60.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Flynn, K. J., and Fitzgibbon, M. (1998). Body images and obesity risk among Black females: A review of the literature. Ann. Behav. Med. 20(1): 13–24.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Franko, D. L., and Striegel-Moore, R. H. (2002). The role of body dissatisfaction as a risk factor for depression in adolescent girls: Are the differences Black and White? J. Psychosom. Res. 53(5): 975–983.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Gardner, R. M., Stark, K., Jackson, N. A., and Friedman, B. N. (1999). Development and validation of two new scales for assessment of body image. Percept. Motor Skills 89: 981–993.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ge, X., Conger, R. D., Elder, G. H., Jr. (1996). Coming of age too early: Pubertal influences on girls’ vulnerability to psychological distress. Child Dev. 67: 3386–3400.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gilpin, E. A., Pierce, J. P., Berry, C. C., and White, M. M. (2000). Technical Report on Analytic Methods and Approaches Used in the 1999 California Tobacco Survey Analysis. University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA.Google Scholar
  14. Godin, G., Jobin, J., and Bouillon, J. (1986). Assessment of leisure time exercise behavior by self-report: A concurrent validity study. Can. J. Public Health 77: 359–362.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Godin, G., and Shephard, R. J. (1985). A simple method to assess exercise behavior in the community. Can. J. Appl. Sports Sci. 10: 141–146.Google Scholar
  16. Kandel, D. B., and Davies, M. (1982). Epidemiology of depressive mood in adolescents: An empirical study. Arch. Gen. Psychiatry 39(10): 1205–1212.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Kemper, K. A., Sargent, R. G., Drane, J. W., Valois, R. F., Hussey, J. R., and Leatherman, T. L. (1994). Black and White adolescent females’ perceptions of ideal body size and social norms. Obes. Res. 2(2): 117–126.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Kuczmarski, R. J., Ogden, C. L., Guo, S. S., Grummer-Strawn, L. M., Flegal, K. M., Mei, Z., et al. (2002). 2000 CDC Growth Charts for the United States: Methods and development. In Vital and Health Statistics. Series 11, Data from the National Health Survey, pp. 1–190.Google Scholar
  19. Kumanyika, S., Wilson, J. F., and Guilford-Davenport, M. (1993). Weight-related attitudes and behaviors of black women. J. Am. Dietetic Assoc. 93(4): 416–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Neumark-Sztainer, D., Croll, J., Story, M., Hannan, P. J., French, S. A., and Perry, C. (2002). Ethnic/racial differences in weight-related concerns and behaviors among adolescent girls and boys: Findings from Project EAT. J. Psychosom. Res. 53(5): 963–974.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Neumark-Sztainer, D., Wall, M. M., Story, M., and Perry, C. L. (2003). Correlates of unhealthy weight-control behaviors among adolescents: Implications for prevention programs. Health Psychol. 22(1): 88–98.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Parnell, K., Sargent, R., Thompson, S. H., Duhe, S. F., Valois, R. F., and Kemper, R. C. (1996). Black and white adolescent females’ perceptions of ideal body size. J. School Health 66(3): 112–118.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Petersen, A. C. (1985). Pubertal development as a cause of disturbance: Myths, realities, and unanswered questions. Genet. Soc. Gen. Psychol. Monogr. 111: 205–232.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Potter, B. K., Pederson, L. L., Chan, S. S., Aubut, J. L., and Koval, J. J. (2004). Does a relationship exist between body weight, concern about weight, and smoking among adolescents? An integration of the literature with an emphasis on gender. Nicotine Tobacco Res. 6(3): 397–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Rierdan, J., and Koff, E. (1997). Weight, weight-related aspects of body image, and depression in early adolescent girls. Adolescence 32: 615–624.Google Scholar
  26. Rierdan, J., Koff, E., and Stubbs, M. L. (1989). A longitudinal analysis of body image as a predictor of the onset and persistence of adolescent girls’ depression. J. Early Adolesc. 9: 454–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Robinson, T. N. (1999). Reducing children's television viewing to prevent obesity: A randomized controlled trial. J. Am. Med. Assoc. 282(16): 1561–1567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Robinson, T. N., and Killen, J. D. (1995). Ethnic and gender differences in the relationships between television viewing and obesity, physical activity, and dietary fat intake. J. Health Educ. 26: S91–S98.Google Scholar
  29. SAS Institute (1990). SAS User's Guide (6th edn.). Cary, NC.Google Scholar
  30. Siegel, J. M., Yancey, A. K., Aneshensel, C. S., and Schuler, R. (1999). Body image, perceived pubertal timing, and adolescent mental health. J. Adolesc. Health 25: 155–165.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Smolak, L., Levine, M. P., and Schermer, F. (1999). Parental input and weight concerns among elementary school children. Int. J. Eating Disord. 25(3): 263–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Steinberg, L., and Sheffield Morris, A. (2001). Adolescent development. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 52: 83–110.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Stice, E. (2002). Sociocultural influences on body image and eating disturbance. In Fairburn, C., and Brownell, K. (eds.), Eating Disorders and Obesity. Guilford Press, New York.Google Scholar
  34. Thompson, S. H., Sargent, R., and Kemper, K. A. (1996). Black and White adolescent males’ perceptions of ideal body size. Sex Roles 34(5/6): 391–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1989). Reducing the Health Consequences of Smoking: 25 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Services, Centers for Disease Control, Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, DHHS Publication No. (CDC) 89--8411.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicole Nollen
    • 1
  • Harsohena Kaur
    • 2
  • Kim Pulvers
    • 3
  • Won Choi
    • 4
  • Marian Fitzgibbon
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
  • Chaoyang Li
    • 8
  • Niaman Nazir
    • 9
  • Jasjit S. Ahluwalia
    • 10
  1. 1.Department of Preventive Medicine and Public HealthUniversity of Kansas Medical CenterKansas CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of PediatricsUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Preventive Medicine and Public HealthUniversity of Kansas Medical CenterKansas CityUSA
  4. 4.MPH Program, Department of Preventive Medicine and Public HealthUniversity of Kansas Medical CenterKansas CityUSA
  5. 5.Medicine and School of Public HealthUniversity of IllinoisChicagoUSA
  6. 6.Midwest Center for Health Services and Policy ResearchJesse Brown VA Medical CenterHinesUSA
  7. 7.Section of Health Promotion Research, Department of MedicineUniversity of Medicine, University of IllinoisChicagoUSA
  8. 8.National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health PromotionCenters for Disease Control and PreventionAtlantaUSA
  9. 9.Department of Preventive Medicine and Public HealthUniversity of Kansas Medical CenterKansas CityUSA
  10. 10.Department of Medicine and Office of Clinical ResearchUniversity of Minnesota School of MedicineMinneapolisUSA

Personalised recommendations