Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


African American women college students-Psychology, Body image in women, Beauty, Personal-Psychological aspects, African American women (college-age), Body image


This qualitative study examined the psychological and emotional effects of contemporary western society's standards of beauty on college-age African American women. Various studies on perception of beauty have explored body image perception from a middle class Caucasian perspective; and as a result, body image conceptualization from the perspective of African American women has gone unnoticed (Spurgas, 2005, Hatcher, 2007, Hall 1995). Previous literature suggests that African American women define self-perception and beauty differently from mainstream definitions. This study involved conducting a focus group with eighteen students between the ages of 18 and 25 who were enrolled at a Historically Black College in the Southeast. Students were asked a series of demographic background questions followed by a mixture of unstructured, open-ended questions that explored their perception of beauty standards and how such beauty standards have made an impact throughout their lives. In addition, the body image rating scale was given to each participate to rate based on their desirability. Major findings from this present study suggest that college-age African American women continue to be challenged by contemporary American standards of beauty in various ways. These findings also reveal how the family, media, and society's idealized beauty standards have a great influence in a woman's overall self-esteem and body image.




iii, 60 p. : ill. (some col.) Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 39-43)

Limited Access until August 2017