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Ethnicity and attitudes to body shape

By Sira Arshad

Abstract

Research evidence has consistently shown that western society is one that values thinness and holds a negative attitude towards overweight individuals. The role of\ud ethnicity is an under researched area in attitudes to body shape, particularly views of obesity in different cultures. The primary aims of this study were to compare\ud British-born South Asian and Caucasian pre-adolescents and their views of their parents in their attitudes to obesity and importance of thinness. Secondary aims were to investigate the role of the family in terms of levels of conflict between girls and their parents and also the role of 'traditional' family background in Asian girls. 169 Asian and 147 Caucasian children from eleven primary schools in Northern England completed assessments investigating body shape stereotypes, body dissatisfaction, dieting and weight control behaviours, parental concern with\ud thinness and levels of conflict in the family. The Asian children completed a short measure of cultural orientation. The study revealed that stereotyped negative attitudes to obesity were shared by all children and their perception of parental attitudes regardless of ethnicity or gender. However, the perception of the 'importance of thinness' to parents was significantly higher in Asian children than\ud Caucasian children. Furthermore, despite the finding that no significant difference was found between the mean body weights of the Asian and Caucasian girls, Asian girls reported significantly higher priority and drive for thinness than Caucasian girls. Unexpectedly, similar results emerged for the Asian boys. No support was found for the 'culture-clash' hypothesis (conflict between traditional and western values) in Asian girls, as family conflict was positively associated with higher priority for thinness in Caucasian girls but not Asian girls.\ud Furthermore only a weak association was found between traditional family background in Asian girls and priority for thinness. The results are discussed in terms of parental place of birth, religious and cultural factors, age of participants and the role of the Asian media. It is suggested that 'culture-clash' in Asian families is an over-simplistic formulation. It may be that it is the lack of tolerance of conflict in Asian families that contributes to the higher levels of attitudes and behaviours associated with a priority for thinness in British Asian girls

Publisher: School of Medicine (Leeds)
Year: 2007
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.whiterose.ac.uk:176

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