Body figure preference in South African adolescent females: A cross cultural study.

  • C P Szabo
  • C W Allwood
Keywords: body, figure, South Africa, cross-cultural


Background: Eating disorders have traditionally been associated with the white community in South Africa. The emergence of eating disorders among blacks in the mid 1990's appeared to signal a demographic shift. Subsequent data suggested that eating disorders would increase in prevalence amongst black South Africans. Objective: The current study sought to explore body figure preference in a cross cultural South African sample, given the established relationship between body dissatisfaction and eating disorders. Methods: The sample comprised a community based, multi-racial adolescent population in both urban (n=1353) and rural (n=361) areas. The Body Figure Preference Test [BFPT] was administered. Results: Most urban respondents had a desire to be smaller (white=72%; black=61%), whereas rural black respondents were more evenly divided amongst those who were content (31%), desiring to be larger (29%) and desiring to be smaller (40%) [Chi square value=105.309, df=4, p=0.001]. Conclusions: The findings of the study demonstrate that racial homogenization exists regarding body figure preference within the urban setting. Data from the rural area suggests milieu specific factors in this regard with fewer respondents desiring to be smaller. This may have implications for the emergence of eating disorders in black South African populations, more specifically those in urban areas.

Keywords: body, figure, South Africa, cross-cultural

> African Health Sciences Vol. 6 (4) 2006: pp. 201-206

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eISSN: 1680-6905