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Body perceptions of black female high school learners
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The majority of studies that have examined the prevalence of eating disorders have sampled women from western societies. Theoretical models have emphasised Western socio-cultural factors as central in the development of eating disorders. Consequently, eating disorders have been conceptualised as disorders from Western industrialised countries where white women experience social pressures toward thinness. Within these societies, white women are believed to be at risk of developing eating disorders, while black women are not exposed to the same social pressure regarding weight. In the literature, it has been argued that African women are 'protected" from developing eating disorders because traditionally a fuller figure has been more acceptable. However, findings from recent studies are beginning to reveal a considerable degree of body perception dissatisfaction among black women, indicating that this debate is far from settled. In the African-American culture, in terms of body perceptions, people are not expected to be all built to look alike. A full, yet healthy body has represented strength, power and prosperity in the African culture throughout history. However, the thin ideal for women seems to be spreading across all ethnic groups. Incorrect body perceptions, dissatisfaction with one's body's appearance and a drive to be thin can lead to erratic eating patterns such as self-starvation and purging, which in turn can result in eating disorders such as Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa. In view of the above, this study investigated body perceptions among black female high school learners in the Cape Metropole. The participants were 702 girls between 13 and 19 years old in ex DET high schools in grades 8 to 11. The study attempted to determine participants' body weight dissatisfaction; whether they perceived themselves as overweight, underweight or of normal weight; and whether they expressed influence by the media, as well as family and peers, on their body perceptions. The sample was divided into two age groups, namely a younger group of 13 - 15 years and an older group of 16 - 19 years. The chi-square test was used to test the statistical significance of the data. The results revealed a statistically significant difference between the younger age group (13-15 years) and the older age group (16-19 years) regarding body weight dissatisfaction and body weight perceptions. Furthermore, the expressed influence by the media and family/peers also show statistically significant results.