Date of Award

Fall 1991

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)




Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology

Committee Director

Thomas F. Cash

Committee Member

Janis Sanchez-Hucles

Committee Member

William Colson

Committee Member

Francine Peterson

Committee Member

Robin Lewis


While many facets of body image have been extensively researched, relatively few studies have examined racial and social class differences in body image. The present paper consists of two studies examining racial and class differences in body image among males and females. Study 1 utilized a national sample of respondents to a 1985 Psychology Today survey to examine racial (Black and White) and educational differences in body image among men and women. Study 2 utilized a smaller sample of Black subjects, half drawn from several Southeastern universities and the other half from non-academic locations in the Tidewater area of Virginia to examine gender and social class differences in body image among Blacks. The results of the two studies were consistent in leading to three general conclusions: (1) Regardless of race or educational level, men have a more positive body image than women. (2) Regardless of sex or educational level, Blacks tend to have a more positive body image than Whites. (3) While White women tend to be more invested than White men in various aspects of their body image, Black men are as interested in their body image as Black women. Results of the first study indicate that being better educated may result in a somewhat more positive body image, although this was not as strong or consistent a trend as the other ones noted above. The lack of significant results based on social class in the second study may reflect a lack of diversity in social class among the subjects in the study rather than the true absence of class differences in body image in the general population. Explanations for the differences, clinical implications, weaknesses of the studies, and suggestions for future research are discussed.


A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculties of The College of William and Mary, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology through the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology.


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