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In many non-Western societies, moderate to high levels of body fat in women have long been equated with health, physical attractiveness, social status, and fertility. In recent times, however, many Western cultures have emphasized the idea that slender women are most attractive. This emphasis on thinness has led to increased levels of body dissatisfaction and dieting in Western cultures and in cultures that have imported Western media and ideals. The current study examines the body ideals in two cultures that have recently undergone increased contact with Western nations: Ghana and the Ukraine. Body dissatisfaction and perceptions of the attractive female body were studied in U.S. and Ukrainian undergraduates and villagers in Ghana using the Contour Drawing Rating Scale (Thompson & Gray, 1995). Compared to the other cultures, in the U.S., slender bodies were more highly valued and women reported a larger discrepancy between their current and ideal bodies. Men and women in Ghana showed the least preference for slender bodies. Men in the U.S. reported that the most attractive body was thinner than the average female body, whereas men from Ghana reported that the most attractive body was heavier than the average female body. In general, preferences recorded in the Ukrainian sample fell between the results for the U.S. and Ghanaian samples. These findings suggest that despite the increased contact with Western cultures, there may be aspects of Ghanaian and Ukrainian culture that promote greater body satisfaction.


This article was originally published in Psychological Topics, volume 17, issue 2, in 2008.


University of Rijeka



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