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Sociocultural influences on body image dissatisfaction in Venezuelan college-aged women

Dissertation
Author: Adriana Baratelli
Abstract:
Research on mental health has been conducted primarily with participants who are of a White, Eurocentric culture. As a result, most diagnostic and intervention tools are geared toward serving that population. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is a need to develop cultural competency in counseling through which clients' cultural needs can be served. Venezuela is one country where body image dissatisfaction may be a concern. Due to cultural differences, there is a need for research on body image to be conducted so that culturally appropriate assessment and intervention models can be developed for Venezuelan women. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of sociocultural factors on body image dissatisfaction in college-aged Venezuelan women. The study's sample included 336 women who were attending various universities in Venezuela. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 21 years. Each participant completed a survey composed of instruments translated into Spanish that assessed (a) the level of body image dissatisfaction, (b) the level of awareness of sociocultural influences presented through the media, (c) the extent of internalization of these sociocultural influences, (d) participants' perceived pressure from their mothers to conform to beauty standards, (e) the level of fear of negative appearance evaluation and (f) the level of conformity to feminine norms. Scores for each of these variables were computed for each participant. The data were analyzed by means of Pearson correlations and stepwise multiple regression analyses. Results revealed that the participants' level of body image dissatisfaction was significantly related to their awareness of sociocultural factors, internalization of sociocultural factors, and fear of negative appearance evaluation. Surprisingly, significant relationships were not found between the women's body image dissatisfaction and the influence of mothers, nor between body image dissatisfaction and conformity to feminine norms. A stepwise multiple regression analysis revealed that the most significant predictor of body image dissatisfaction was fear of negative appearance evaluation, followed by internalization of sociocultural influences. Together these two variables accounted for 34.7% of the variance in body image dissatisfaction. The limitations of the study, implications for policy, counseling practice, theory, and future research were discussed.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................3 LIST OF TABLES...........................................................................................................................8 ABSTRACT.....................................................................................................................................9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION..................................................................................................................11 Scope of the Problem..............................................................................................................11 Theoretical Framework...........................................................................................................15 Sociocultural Theory.......................................................................................................15 Feminist Theory...............................................................................................................16 Variables of Interest in the Study...........................................................................................17 Body Image and the Media..............................................................................................17 Fear of Negative Appearance Evaluation........................................................................18 Body Image and Pressure from Mothers.........................................................................19 Feminine Norms and Body Image...................................................................................21 Purpose of the Study...............................................................................................................22 Need for the Study..................................................................................................................22 Research Questions.................................................................................................................23 Definition of Terms................................................................................................................24 Body Image.....................................................................................................................24 Body Image Dissatisfaction.............................................................................................24 Sociocultural factors........................................................................................................24 Awareness of Sociocultural Factors................................................................................24 Internalization of Sociocultural Factors..........................................................................24 Femininity Standards.......................................................................................................24 Fear of Negative Appearance Evaluation........................................................................24 Perceived Pressures from Mother to Conform to Beauty Standards...............................25 Perceived Feedback about Body Shape from Mother.....................................................25 Perceived Encouragement from Mothers to Lose Weight..............................................25 2 LITERATURE REVIEW.......................................................................................................26 What Is Body Image?.............................................................................................................26 Body Image and Culture.........................................................................................................28 Monolithic View of Latinos............................................................................................30 The Problem of Acculturation.........................................................................................32 Venezuelan Culture................................................................................................................33 Impact of Oil on Diversity...............................................................................................34 Importance of Race and Socioeconomic Status in Venezuela........................................35 Collaboration and Family................................................................................................36 5

Venezuelan Women.........................................................................................................36 Body Image in Venezuela.......................................................................................................37 Feminist Theory......................................................................................................................39 Feminist Theory and Body Image..........................................................................................41 Theme One: Weight as Power or Coping Mechanism....................................................42 Theme Two: The Culture of Thinness.............................................................................43 Sociocultural Theory..............................................................................................................44 Awareness of Sociocultural Factors................................................................................45 Internalization of Sociocultural Factors..........................................................................46 Fear of Negative Evaluation of Appearance...................................................................47 Influence of Mothers.......................................................................................................47 Research on Femininity...................................................................................................49 Summary and Conclusion.......................................................................................................52 3 METHODOLOGY.................................................................................................................55 Statement of Purpose..............................................................................................................55 Research Design.....................................................................................................................55 Operational Definitions..........................................................................................................55 Body Image.....................................................................................................................55 Awareness of Sociocultural Factors................................................................................56 Internalization of Sociocultural Factors..........................................................................56 Perceived Pressure from Mother to Conform to Beauty Standards................................56 Fear of Negative Appearance Evaluation........................................................................57 Compliance with Feminine Norms..................................................................................57 Population...............................................................................................................................57 Sample....................................................................................................................................58 Instrumentation.......................................................................................................................59 Body-Esteem Scale for Adolescent and Adults (BESAA) - Awareness.........................60 Sociocultural Attitudes Toward Appearance Questionnaire - Revised (SATAQ)..........60 The Fear of Negative Appearance Evaluation Scale (FNAES).......................................61 Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory (CFNI).........................................................61 Perceived Sociocultural Influences on Body Image and Body Change Questionnaire--Mother Scale.......................................................................................62 Data Collection Procedures....................................................................................................62 Hypotheses..............................................................................................................................63 4 DATA ANALYSIS AND RESULTS....................................................................................65 Analysis of Instruments..........................................................................................................65 Descriptive Statistics..............................................................................................................67 Results.....................................................................................................................................69 Summary.................................................................................................................................74

6

7 5 DISCUSSION.........................................................................................................................76 Overview of the Study............................................................................................................76 Discussion of Findings...........................................................................................................76 Awareness of Sociocultural Factors................................................................................76 Internalization of Sociocultural Factors..........................................................................77 Perceived Pressures from Mother to Conform to Beauty Standards...............................78 Fear of Negative Appearance Evaluation........................................................................80 Conformity to Standards of Femininity...........................................................................81 Predictors of Body Image Dissatisfaction.......................................................................82 Limitations of the Study.........................................................................................................84 Recommendations for Future Research..................................................................................85 Implications............................................................................................................................87 Implications for Theory...................................................................................................87 Implications for Practice..................................................................................................89 Implications for Policy....................................................................................................91 Conclusion..............................................................................................................................91 APPENDIX A INFORMED CONSENT LETTER........................................................................................93 Spanish Version......................................................................................................................93 English Version......................................................................................................................95 B DEMOGRAPHIC QUESTIONNAIRE..................................................................................97 Spanish Version......................................................................................................................97 English Version......................................................................................................................98 LIST OF REFERENCES...............................................................................................................99 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.......................................................................................................112

LIST OF TABLES Table page

3-1. Participants’ age (frequencies and percentages).....................................................................63 3-2. Participants’ living arrangements...........................................................................................63 3-3. Participants’ monthly household income...............................................................................64 3-4. Participants’ type of university currently attending...............................................................64 3-5. Participants’ year in college...................................................................................................64 3-6. Participants’ academic major..................................................................................................64 4-1. Descriptive statistics for the study’s variables.......................................................................75 4-2. Correlations among the study’s variables...............................................................................75 4-3. Body image dissatisfaction stepwise regression model summary..........................................75 4-4. Body image dissatisfaction model coefficients......................................................................75

8

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy SOCIOCULTURAL INFLUENCES ON BODY IMAGE DISSATISFACTION IN VENEZUELAN COLLEGE-AGED WOMEN

By

Adriana Baratelli May 2008 Chair: Ellen S. Amatea Major: Marriage and Family Counseling

Research on mental health has been conducted primarily with participants who are of a White, Eurocentric culture. As a result, most diagnostic and intervention tools are geared toward serving that population. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is a need to develop cultural competency in counseling through which clients’ cultural needs can be served. Venezuela is one country where body image dissatisfaction may be a concern. Due to cultural differences, there is a need for research on body image to be conducted so that culturally appropriate assessment and intervention models can be developed for Venezuelan women. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of sociocultural factors on body image dissatisfaction in college-aged Venezuelan women. The study’s sample included 336 women who were attending various universities in Venezuela. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 21 years. Each participant completed a survey composed of instruments translated into Spanish that assessed (a) the level of body image dissatisfaction, (b) the level of awareness of sociocultural influences presented through the media, (c) the extent of internalization of these sociocultural influences, (d) participants’ perceived pressure from their mothers to conform to beauty standards, (e) the level of fear of 9

10 negative appearance evaluation and (f) the level of conformity to feminine norms. Scores for each of these variables were computed for each participant. The data were analyzed by means of Pearson correlations and stepwise multiple regression analyses. Results revealed that the participants’ level of body image dissatisfaction was significantly related to their awareness of sociocultural factors, internalization of sociocultural factors, and fear of negative appearance evaluation. Surprisingly, significant relationships were not found between the women’s body image dissatisfaction and the influence of mothers, nor between body image dissatisfaction and conformity to feminine norms. A stepwise multiple regression analysis revealed that the most significant predictor of body image dissatisfaction was fear of negative appearance evaluation, followed by internalization of sociocultural influences. Together these two variables accounted for 34.7% of the variance in body image dissatisfaction. The limitations of the study, implications for policy, counseling practice, theory, and future research were discussed.

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Scope of the Problem In the past, eating disorders were believed to be “Culture-bound syndromes,” applicable only to White culture (Wildes & Emery, 2001). According to this view, eating disorders only occurred in White upper and middle class women living in the United States and other European countries. Because of this belief, the bulk of the research on this topic has been conducted with White, middle and upper class women, thus limiting the application of assessment, diagnostic and treatment methods to that specific population. Yet multicultural researchers are beginning to document that eating disorders and body image dissatisfaction are also occurring among residents of different cultures and countries (Neumark-Sztainer, Croll, Story, Hannan, French, & Perry, 2002; Robinson, et al., 1996). Thus there is a need to expand the research on this topic in the hopes of learning more about diverse populations and eventually create culturally sensitive assessment and intervention methods. Because body image dissatisfaction has been found to be linked to more serious eating disorders, this study will examine women’s body image dissatisfaction. Body image refers to a person’s attitudes and feelings about her body, including not only her weight and body shape but all aspects of her appearance (Thompson, Heinberg, Altabe, & Tantleff-Dunn, 1999). Body image dissatisfaction refers to a cognitive and affective process in which a person develops negative feelings about her body and appearance (Rosen, 1992). Longitudinal studies have revealed body image dissatisfaction to be a primary risk factor in the development of eating disorders for women in the United States (Gardner, Friedman & Jackson, 1999). One such study followed 87 girls in the United States, aged 10-15 yrs at the start of the study, for a period of 3 years and found that body image dissatisfaction predicted restrictive eating practices (Cattarin & 11

Thompson, 1994). Another study followed 116 adolescent girls in the United States for an eight- year period. These authors explored risk factors predictive of eating disorders; the results demonstrated that level of body fat was a significant predictor during young adolescence, mid- adolescence and early adulthood. Furthermore, the study also showed that body dissatisfaction was a predictor of eating disorders for young women during adolescence and middle adolescence (Graber, Brooks-Gunn, Paikoff, and Warren, 1994). In another study, Stice and Agras followed 218 adolescent girls between the ages of 16 and 19 for a period of 9 months. These authors found that body dissatisfaction predicted the onset of binge eating and purging (Stice & Agras, 1998). Similarly, Stice and Killen conducted a four-year study which followed 543 girls during late adolescence. The study found that body dissatisfaction predicted the onset of binge eating and purging (Stice & Killen, 1998). These studies support the view that body image dissatisfaction is primary in the development of eating disorders. And so it can be said that treating body image dissatisfaction can be a way to prevent eating disorders. By focusing on body image dissatisfaction, this study will be applicable to a broader population of women, including not only those at risk for developing eating disorders but also women who might be preoccupied with their appearance but do not meet the diagnosis for an eating disorder. Body image dissatisfaction has also been found to be linked to self-esteem in United States women (DuBois, Tevendale, Burk-Braxton, Swenson, & Hardesty, 2000). Finally, body image dissatisfaction has been linked to other mental health issues, including depression and anxiety disorders (Bay-Cheng, Zucker, Stewart & Pomerlau, 2002). Identifying body image dissatisfaction may be an initial strategy for preventing the development of mental disorders in adolescent girls and women, as opposed to treating these disorders after they occur and have become more serious. 12

One country where body image dissatisfaction seems to be of concern is Venezuela. Venezuela has been called a land of beauty queens, as Venezuelan women have won numerous beauty pageants during the past 50 years. Venezuela has won four Miss Universe, five Miss World, four Miss Internationals and numerous other titles and crowns (Sosa, 2001). As a result, Venezuelans place great importance on beauty pageants, and watching the Miss Venezuela pageant has become an important tradition in many households, similar to watching the Super Bowl in the United States (Enright, Francés, & Saavedra, 1996). Due to Venezuela’s outstanding performance in these pageants, the common saying has risen that “Venezuelan women are the most beautiful women in the world”. Venezuela’s second largest industry is considered to be beauty contestants, second only to the oil industry (Enright et al., 1996). These beliefs about Venezuelan beauty may place pressure on women from this country to worry about their appearance. As a result, Venezuelan women often engage in efforts to make themselves beautiful. According to a London-based research firm, Euromonitor International, in 2004 Venezuela spent $1.1 billion in beauty products. This makes Venezuela the largest purchaser of beauty products in Latin America based on per capita rates. A study conducted by one research-marketing firm, Roper Starch Worldwide (1999), surveyed residents of 30 countries to determine their levels of vanity. The results show that among the 30 countries sampled, Venezuela had the highest rate of vanity, as 65% of women and 47% of men said that they think about the way they look all the time. These figures are well above the global average, which is that of 23% for women and 16% for men. This study also found that Venezuelans spend a fifth of their income on beauty products and personal grooming. In spite of the high rates of poverty that the country faces, beauty-driven consumption is prominent across all social classes (Sosa, 2001). 13

Another factor that influences beauty standards in Venezuela is its proximity to the United States. Venezuela receives a lot of media input from the fashion and beauty industry in the United States including the merchandising of beauty products and propaganda (Sosa, 2001). Thus women in Venezuela are exposed to a White ideal of beauty, which many women may adopt as the image to strive for even though these beauty ideals may be unrealistic and unattainable for many Venezuelan women. Because the White beauty ideals are unattainable to the Venezuelan population, which is composed of 67 percent meztizo (people of mixed European and American Indian descent), many women resort to plastic surgery and unhealthy weight management strategies and beauty rituals. Even though there is tremendous pressure on Venezuelan women to conform to White standards of beauty, it is surprising that the scholarly literature in this country has not explored the impact that this pressure has on women. Most studies have focused on eating disorders, and have been based on previous research conducted in the United States. For example, a study in Venezuela examined rates of eating disorders in high school adolescent girls (Quintero-Parraga, Perez-Montiel & Montiel-Nava, 2003). These researchers found that although eating disorder rates were comparable to those in the United States, what was most alarming was the fact that most girls in the study demonstrated a preoccupation with their weight even if they did not meet criteria for an eating disorders diagnosis. This shows the importance of studying body image dissatisfaction as opposed to focusing exclusively on eating disorders, since the broader concept of body image would include those girls in this study who worry about their appearance but do not meet criteria for a disorder. However, studies that focus on Venezuelan women are rare, and those that do exist typically are based on conceptual data gathered from women in other countries. For example, the study previously cited (Quintero-Parraga et al., 2003) is based on 14

literature from the United States and Spain. Due to cultural differences between these countries and Venezuela it can be argued that while the existing body of research that has been conducted in the United States or Europe is extensive, it may not be applicable to Venezuelan women. Thus there is a need for research specifically conducted with Venezuelan women so that culturally appropriate assessment and intervention models can be developed. Theoretical Framework This study is based on two theoretical frameworks that explain the development of body image dissatisfaction. These include sociocultural theory and feminist theory. The following is a discussion of each of these frameworks. Sociocultural Theory One of the most common theories explaining the development of body image dissatisfaction is sociocultural theory (Levine & Harrison, 2004; Thompson et al., 1999). According to this theory, body dissatisfaction is seen as a result of the ‘thin ideal’ and other unattainable standards of beauty that are propagated by society. Individuals experience pressure from interpersonal (family and peers) and media influences which transmit and reinforce these societal ideals of beauty (e.g., Bordo, 1993; Fallon, 1990; Striegel-Moore, Silberstein, & Rodin, 1986). Because these standards of beauty are unattainable to most, the individual dislikes her body, and in turn develops body dissatisfaction and possibly unhealthy weight management behaviors. These unhealthy weight management behaviors may involve dieting, self induced vomiting, or use of laxatives and diuretics. Research supports the fact that sociocultural factors are important risk factors contributing to body dissatisfaction and possibly to more serious eating disorders (Stice, 2002). A meta- analysis of 25 experimental studies conducted in the United States reported that women felt worse after being exposed to images of thin models as compared to other images (Groez, Levine, 15

& Murner, 2002). Another study by Posavac & Posavac (2002) found that women in the United States are likely to develop body image dissatisfaction if they encounter discrepancies between their perceived selves and the ideal images portrayed by the media. However, contemporary researchers argue that it is not exposure to sociocultural factors which cause body dissatisfaction, since individuals are not passive recipients of these pressures (Joshi, Herman, & Polivy, 2004; Polivy & Herman, 2004). Hence, it is not the person’s exposure to these sociocultural factors that place them at risk but rather the extent to which they internalize these pressures and apply them to themselves (Thompson et al., 1999). For this reason, the three main constructs that have been studied in relation to sociocultural factors and body image dissatisfaction in U.S. women are: (a) awareness of a thin ideal, (b) internalization of a thin ideal, and (c) perceived pressures to achieve this ideal (e.g., Stice 2002; Thompson & Stice, 2001). Sociocultural theory is of relevance to non-White populations, because women of color experience sociocultural pressures to achieve a White American ideal of beauty. Some researchers have found that when women of color judge themselves based on White beauty standards they become at risk for developing body image dissatisfaction and eating disorders (Iijima Hall, 1995; Root, 1990). This is mainly due to the fact that these beauty ideals are even more unattainable for women of color. Feminist Theory Feminist theory explains that women learn through society to equate physical appearance with self-esteem (Frank, 1986; Nagel & Jones, 1992). Thus, a woman’s sense of worth is based on her adherence to sociocultural standards of beauty. These beauty standards, as previously mentioned, are propagated through sociocultural factors such as the media, family and peer relations, and typically involve a standard of thinness for women. Some feminist authors go as far as to say that this culture of thinness is a way for a patriarchal society to subjugate women 16

(Wolf, 1990). Similarly, women are socialized to value interpersonal relationships, and believe that they are responsible for nurturing these relationships. As a result, social standards also portray the message that for women there is link between success in personal relationships and perceived physical attractiveness (Striegel-Moore & Marcus, 1995). Because of the importance of physical attractiveness to their self-esteem, women make personal relationships an important part of their lives as well. Thus, based on this theory, dieting and body dissatisfaction are natural reactions to the pressure to be thin. Furthermore, it can be said that the strong expectation that women be engaged in interpersonal relationships may make them more vulnerable to influences from those relationships (that is, influence from family and peers). This supports the view of sociocultural factors theorists, who propose that the media and social relations propagate beauty ideals and place pressure on women to fulfill them. Variables of Interest in the Study Based on sociocultural theory and feminist theory, the following variables were examined in relationship to body image dissatisfaction: (1) level of awareness of sociocultural factors, (2) extent of internalization of sociocultural factors, (3) fear of negative appearance evaluation, (4) conformity to femininity norms, and (5) maternal influence. The following sections provide a rationale for the selection of each of these variables. Body Image and the Media Research studies examining the impact of media images on psychological processes have found that exposure to images of thin women can lead to body dissatisfaction (e.g. Groesz, Levine, & Murnen, 2002; Levine, Smolak, & Hayden, 1994; Maine, 2000; Waller, Hamilton, & Shaw, 1992). A substantial amount of the research has focused on exposure to media images and its influence on body image or eating disorders. More recently, however, research has moved 17

from looking at exposure to these images to measuring the degree of internalization of these images. That is, researchers have begun to examine how much women accept these standards and endorse them. It has been shown that level of internalization of the thin ideal presented in the media is strongly correlated with body dissatisfaction (Cusumano & Thompson, 1997; Thompson et al., 1999). Posavac & Posavac (2002) found that women are likely to develop body image dissatisfaction if they encounter discrepancies between their perceived selves and the ideal images portrayed by the media. That is, when these women compared themselves to media images, if they found differences between themselves and the way the models looked then this made them more likely to feel dissatisfied about their own appearance. Studies like this show that it is not only the exposure to these images which affect women’s body image, but the internalization or acceptance of these images as the acceptable beauty standards. Goodman (2002) found that because the majority of the media images that Latinas in the U.S. view are of White women, the standard of beauty that they perceive is that of a White woman. Because of the body figure differences inherent in different ethnic groups, Latinas find themselves far from the White ideal represented in the media; this leads women to feel dissatisfied with their bodies (Goodman, 2002). Because the media images in Venezuela propagate a White ideal of beauty, this study examines both the level of awareness and the extent of internalization of the White thin ideal and whether these factors are related to the body image dissatisfaction of Venezuelan women. Fear of Negative Appearance Evaluation The concept of fear of negative evaluation refers to “sensitivity, or an unwarranted and excessive awareness and sensitivity to the feelings and actions of others” (Vander Wal & Thomas, 2004, p 292). Researchers have found that fear of negative evaluation can make a person vulnerable to feedback and teasing from family and friends related to weight and 18

appearance issues (Wardle & Collins, 1998). A more specific concept of fear of negative appearance related evaluation has been proposed by Thomas, Keery, Williams & Thompson (1998) which applies directly to body image. Fear of negative appearance related evaluation refers to being apprehensive or hypersensitive about other people’s judgment of one’s appearance. These authors found that fear of negative appearance evaluation is correlated with body image dissatisfaction and history of being teased (Thomas et al., 1998). Venezuela, like many other Latin American countries, is a collectivist society. As a result people are more aware of other people’s feelings and action. Unfortunately, this makes Venezuelan women more likely to worry about the evaluation of others and attempt to live up to the societal standards. This study examines the relationship between awareness of others’ views and levels of body image dissatisfaction. Body Image and Pressure from Mothers A person’s family can be considered an immediate sub-cultural influence and therefore plays an important role in the reinforcement of societal standards (Benedikt, Wertheim, and Love, 1998). Many studies have looked at parental influences on their children’s body image. Some of these studies have looked at the role of modeling and how the parent’s body image and eating behaviors can affect the body image that the child develops (Pike & Rodin, 1991; Hill, Weaver, & Blundell, 1990). Other studies have looked at parents’ attitudes toward their children’s weight and eating behavior and how these affect the child’s body image (Levine, Smolak & Hayden, 1994). Studies examining parental encouragement to lose weight have found that such parental encouragement is associated with daughters who are more likely to diet (Benedikt et al., 1998; Moreno & Thelen, 1993; Pike & Rodin, 1991; Thelen & Cormier, 1995; Wertheim, Mee, & Paxton, 1999). However, these studies have been correlational in nature. In a study of adolescent 19

girls, Levine and colleagues (1994) found that weight related teasing from family (parents and siblings combined) was a significant predictor of body image dissatisfaction and eating disorders. A study by Schwartz, Phares, Tantleff-Dunn and Thompson (1999) looked at a sample of 114 males and 139 female college students (mean age=20.26). They sought to find if parental weight-related commentaries had an impact on body image and psychological functioning. They found that for women, feedback about body shape from mothers and fathers was significantly correlated with body image. Furthermore, this feedback was predictive of psychological functioning for both male and female participants (Schwartz et al., 1999). A study of early adolescent boys and girls found that encouragement from either parent to diet was related to the daughter’s or son’s body image dissatisfaction. Although both parents were influential, they found that, in general, mothers were more influential than fathers (Wertheim, Martin, Prior, Sanson & Smart, 2002). A study by McCabe and Ricciardelli (2001) looked at 1266 adolescents (boys and girls) and sociocultural influences on body image and body change strategies. This study reported that adolescent girls were more likely to perceive their mothers as encouraging them to fulfill sociocultural standards of beauty (McCabe & Ricciardelli, 2001). In Venezuela, as in most Latin American societies, there is a strong emphasis on collectivism and family unity (Arcia, Reyes-Blanes, & Vazquez-Montilla, 2000; Coohey, 2001; Santiago- Rivera, Arredondo, & Gallardo-Cooper, 2002; Sue & Sue, 2003). The family plays a major role in a person’s life, impacting their views and attitudes. Unlike in the United States, in Venezuela many people continue to live with their families during college and remain in close proximity to their families even after they move out of the household. Thus, the family and consequently a person’s mother continues to be a source of influence for Venezuelans even after they become 20

adults (Santiago-Rivera et al.). This influence and its effects on women’s preoccupation with appearance are examined in the present study. Feminine Norms and Body Image Although eating disorders and body image disturbances exist across genders, it has been noted that women experience higher rates of these disorders than men do. As a result of these gender disparities, researchers have given special attention to gender role norms as possible contributors to body image disturbance (Thompson et al., 1999). Gender role norms provide standards for how men and women should think, feel, look and behave as well as behaviors or attributes that they should try to avoid (Mahalik, Morray, Coonerty-Femiano, Ludlow, Slattery & Smiler, 2005). In this way, gender role norms provide guidance for a woman on what she should strive for to be and look feminine, with the traditional standards of femininity characterizing women as being passive, dependent, caring, emotional and non-assertive (Ravaldi, et al., 2006). Under these standards women are also expected to be attractive and be thin (Crawford & Unger, 2000; Gilbert & Scher, 1999). Gender role norms are important in that they affect identity development (e.g. Chodorow, 1978; Kohlberg, 1966), can cause gender role strain (Eisler, 1995; Pleck, 1981, 1995), and are considered an essential aspect of a person’s mental health (Brown, 1986; Brooks & Good, 2001; Gilbert & Scher, 1999). In Latin America, gender role norms tend to be more rigid and traditional than those in the United States (Santiago-Rivera et al., 2002; Sue & Sue, 2003). Some studies have been conducted examining the effects of these rigid standards of femininity on Latinas’ mental health. These studies have found that women who follow rigid gender role norms are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and other emotional disorders (Hollander, 1996). Venezuela, like most other countries in Latin America, is a patriarchal society with strong gender role norms (Sue & Sue, 2003). Based on the literature, it is believed that Venezuelan 21

Full document contains 113 pages
Abstract: Research on mental health has been conducted primarily with participants who are of a White, Eurocentric culture. As a result, most diagnostic and intervention tools are geared toward serving that population. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is a need to develop cultural competency in counseling through which clients' cultural needs can be served. Venezuela is one country where body image dissatisfaction may be a concern. Due to cultural differences, there is a need for research on body image to be conducted so that culturally appropriate assessment and intervention models can be developed for Venezuelan women. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of sociocultural factors on body image dissatisfaction in college-aged Venezuelan women. The study's sample included 336 women who were attending various universities in Venezuela. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 21 years. Each participant completed a survey composed of instruments translated into Spanish that assessed (a) the level of body image dissatisfaction, (b) the level of awareness of sociocultural influences presented through the media, (c) the extent of internalization of these sociocultural influences, (d) participants' perceived pressure from their mothers to conform to beauty standards, (e) the level of fear of negative appearance evaluation and (f) the level of conformity to feminine norms. Scores for each of these variables were computed for each participant. The data were analyzed by means of Pearson correlations and stepwise multiple regression analyses. Results revealed that the participants' level of body image dissatisfaction was significantly related to their awareness of sociocultural factors, internalization of sociocultural factors, and fear of negative appearance evaluation. Surprisingly, significant relationships were not found between the women's body image dissatisfaction and the influence of mothers, nor between body image dissatisfaction and conformity to feminine norms. A stepwise multiple regression analysis revealed that the most significant predictor of body image dissatisfaction was fear of negative appearance evaluation, followed by internalization of sociocultural influences. Together these two variables accounted for 34.7% of the variance in body image dissatisfaction. The limitations of the study, implications for policy, counseling practice, theory, and future research were discussed.