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Marginalization, Mental Health, and Empowerment Lab
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Ongoing Projects > Body Image

Ongoing Projects

Body Image

Exploring Body Image Issues in Asian Men: Endorsement of Western Media Ideals, Cultural Influences, and Drive for Muscularity:

The study of men’s body image has received increasing attention as body dissatisfaction hasbeen consistently linked to unhealthy physical and psychological outcomes (Cafri et al., 2005; Thompson & Cafri, 2007; Tylka, Bergeron, & Schwartz, 2005). While recent research has had greater focus in assessing body image issues for men, the generalized assumption and application of muscularity-oriented body image poses uncertain research implications for ethnic minority populations including Asian men (Connell & Messerschimidt, 2005; Chen, Gao, & Jackson, 2007; Frederick et al., 2007). Studies examining the importance of muscularity and body size have reported inconsistent results among Asian men suggesting mixed body size and muscularity preferences based on cultural identities (Brokhoff et al., 2012; Pompper 2010; Ricciardelli et al., 2007; Yang et al., 2005).

In examining muscularity ideals in men, the Drive for Muscularity Scale (DMS) has been regarded as best measure in assessing muscularity desires; however, it has been used for, and developed mainly through, samples of predominantly White men (Edwards, & Launder, 2000; McCreary, & Sasse, 2000). Therefore, this study aims to explore this instrumental gap by validating DMS for Asian men (Hypothesis 1).

The study also aims to test the link between endorsement of western media ideals (EWMI) and drive for muscularity in Asian men (Hypothesis 2). Furthermore, the impact of cultural influences on the preference of muscular body image ideals through two moderating variables are examined: 1) acculturative stress, and 2) enculturation. As acculturative stress may cause alienation and separation from host culture leading to adaptation problems and psychological deficits, Asian men may strive for muscularity to fit in (Paukert et al., 2006) (Hypothesis 3). Conversely, as enculturation have consistently been associated with favorable psychological outcomes, retaining Asian values may mitigate the perceived pressure and may decrease muscularity desires(Constantine, Okazaki, & Utsey, 2010; Iwamoto, & Liu, 2010; Yoon et al., 2013) (Hypothesis 4).

Exploring the Conceptualization of Body Image in Asian American Women: Negotiating Cultural Standards of Beauty, Cultural Identity, and the Implications for Eating Disorder Risk 

The purpose of this research is to explore the meaning and the development of the conceptualization of body image in Asian American women, ages 18-29. I hope to understand whether issues such as cultural standards of beauty and cultural identity, may apply specifically to ideal body image development and eating disorder risk.

Rooted in a myriad of sociocultural factors, understanding eating disorder development and treatment is inherently complex and varies widely across cultures. As a distinct ethnic group in America, Asian Americans experience value conflicts between their own culture and the mainstream American culture, in addition to instances of racial prejudice and discrimination (Chu & Sue, 2011). The majority of past research on body image and eating disorders has been conducted on Caucasian American college women, thereby biasing our understanding of the full breadth of body image issues and factors involved in eating disorder development (Bettendorf & Fischer, 2009). My study intends to explore how Asian American women experience body image in order to better understand any implications for eating disorder risk and development. Furthermore, the focus of my research is on the adult population, aged 18-29, because participants in adulthood can most effectively reflect upon developing their body image as an adolescent while possessing a more solidified conceptualization of their body image currently. Past literature indicates that eating pathology emerges most significantly during middle adolescence, not during preadolescence or adulthood (Stice, 2002).

Trans Experiences of Stress and Body Image

Our new study examines issues of stress and body image amongst trans people in the US. Because trans people face daily discrimination (violence, harassment, body shaming, etc.), we are interested in hearing about how people feel about these experiences and how they cope with their struggles. Specifically, we are hoping folks will share how they may internalize negative messages about their bodies and their identities, and push back against them.

In the face of all these stressors, how do people of trans experience collaborate and fight back as activists and community leaders?This study is open to people of all trans identities. We are donating $1 to the National Center for Transgender Equality for every person who completes the survey. Participants will also be entered into a raffle for an gift card.