Racial differences in selection of ideal body size by adolescent females

Obes Res. 1994 Jan;2(1):38-43. doi: 10.1002/j.1550-8528.1994.tb00042.x.


Cultural differences may partially account for the fact that more black women than white women are overweight in the United States. This study measured perceptions of ideal body size among 93 black and 80 white females, 14-17 years old, who were randomly selected from three public high schools in a southeastern state. The subjects' height and weight were measured along with their estimates of their mother's body size, weight control attitudes, and demographic variables. Blacks preferred a significantly larger body size than whites when asked to select ideal body size (p = 0.045). Subjects who estimated their mother's size to be larger, also selected a larger ideal body size (p = .047). Those who perceived themselves as too fat were more likely to skip meals to help control their weight, compared with those who perceived themselves as normal or too thin (p = .003). Approximately 30% of the sample was overweight or obese. There were not significant racial differences in weight or BMI. These results suggest that overweight is more acceptable among black females than among white females and may help explain why more black females are obese.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • African Continental Ancestry Group / psychology*
  • Body Image*
  • Body Size*
  • Body Weight
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obesity / ethnology*