Influence of Situational Variables on Changes in State Body Image Among Black and White Women




Rahimi, Amanda

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Although research suggests that body esteem varies according to daily experiences (Melnyk, Cash, & Janda, 2004; Tiggemann, 2001), few studies have examined situational variables that may lead to fluctuations in body satisfaction. Of the limited experimental research, results suggest that a variety of experiences, including interpersonal feedback, clothing selection, and media exposure, may trigger changes in body esteem (Grabe, Ward, & Hyde, 2008; Kwon & Shim, 1999; Mills & Miller, 2007). The main goal of this study was to examine within-person variability of state body image and situational experiences that influence changes in state body image among college women in their everyday lives. A secondary aim was to examine how race and appearance investment moderate this effect. A pilot study was conducted to examine situational experiences related to changes in body esteem. Eleven Black American (BA) and 11 White American (WA) women recorded their body experiences and feelings in a journal for one week and results were used to create a simple checklist that was used in the main study. Participants in the main study included 40 BA and 42 WA undergraduate women (ages 18-28). Participants completed a measure of appearance investment on Day 1, and a state body image measure and a situational experience checklist online twice daily for the next seven days. Results were analyzed using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM), a method that accounts for nonindependence of observations. Findings revealed considerable within-person variability in body image. Every event type was uniquely associated with changes in body image except dissatisfaction while exercising. All of the interactions between race and situational variables were nonsignificant, indicating that the association between situational experiences and changes in state body image did not depend on an individual’s race. Appearance investment was only found to be a significant moderator of the association between state body image and exercise dissatisfaction. Potential limitations of these findings are discussed along with suggestions for future research examining the effects of positive and negative experiences on state body image.



Body image, Experiences, Fluctuations, Race