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Who's That Girl: Television's Role In The Body Image Development Of Young White And Black Women


  • Deborah Schooler, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan; L. Monique Ward, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan; Ann Merriwether, Department of Psychology, Binghamton University, State University of New York; and Allison Caruthers, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan.

  • An earlier version of this paper was selected for the Pat Gurin Distinguished Lecture and was presented as a poster at the 2002 annual meeting of the American Psychological Association. The authors would like to thank members of the Ward/Merriwether research lab and several anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: L. Monique Ward, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, 525 E. University Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. E-mail:


Although findings indicate a connection between frequent media use and greater body dissatisfaction, little attention has focused on the role of race. Accordingly, this study investigates the relation between television viewing and body image among 87 Black and 584 White women. Participants reported monthly viewing amounts of mainstream and Black-oriented television programs as well as body attitudes as measured by the Eating Disorders Inventory, the Body Esteem Scale, and the Body Shape Questionnaire. Results suggest different patterns predicting body image for White and Black women. Among White women, viewing mainstream television predicted poorer body image, while viewing Black-oriented media was unrelated to body image. Among Black women, viewing Black-oriented television predicted healthier body image, while viewing mainstream television was unrelated to body image. Ethnic identity also predicted healthier body image among Black women, and appeared to moderate, to some extent, the contributions of viewing Black-oriented programming.

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