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This cross-sectional study explored similarities and differences between heterosexual, bisexual, and lesbian women in levels of, and relationships between, the following constructs using a Tripartite Influence Model framework: family, peer, and media appearance pressures, thin- and muscular-ideal internalization, and eating disorder (ED) pathology. Self-identified heterosexual (n = 1,528), bisexual (n = 89), and lesbian (n = 278) undergraduate women completed the Sociocultural Attitudes Towards Appearance Questionnaire-4 and the Eating Disorder Examination-Questionnaire. Sexual orientation differences in appearance pressures, appearance-ideal internalization, and ED pathology were examined via analysis of variance tests. Relationships between these variables were examined with multi-group path analyses, controlling for age, race/ethnicity, and body mass index. Compared with lesbian women, heterosexual and bisexual women reported higher levels of peer appearance pressures. Paths from peer appearance pressures and thin-ideal internalization to shape/weight overvaluation and body dissatisfaction were strongest for bisexual women. Overall, results indicate notable similarities between heterosexual, bisexual, and lesbian women. However, preliminary evidence for potential differences highlights the importance of examining variation in ED risk between sexual minority subgroups.


NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Body Image. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Body Image, volume 30, in 2019.

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