Black-white differences in body size perceptions and weight management practices among adolescent females

L J Neff, R G Sargent, R E McKeown, K L Jackson, R F Valois
Journal of Adolescent Health 1997, 20 (6): 459-65

OBJECTIVE: This study compares body size perceptions and weight management practices of black and white adolescent females.

DESIGN: Subjects were selected through a statewide, three-stage sampling procedure designed to provide a sample statistically representative of high school students in South Carolina.

SUBJECTS: Participants included black (n = 1824) and white (n = 2256) females, 14-18 years of age, enrolled in South Carolina public high schools.

METHODS: Respondents were asked to assess their perceived body size as overweight, underweight, or about right. Self-reported weight management practices included dieting (reducing caloric intake), exercise, and other methods (including diet pills and vomiting). Chisquare analysis was used to assess the differences in body size perception and weight management behaviors. Polychotomous logistic regression was performed to examine association while controlling for socioeconomic status.

RESULTS: Forty-one percent of the white adolescents and 29% of the black adolescents perceive themselves as overweight (p < 0.005). In the week prior to the survey, 28% of the white adolescents and 13% of the black adolescents reported dieting 34% of the while versus 23% of the black adolescents reported exercising to lose weight; and 45% of the white and 16% of the black students reported both dieting and exercising. Polychotomous logistic regression analysis showed that white adolescent girls were almost twice as likely to perceive themselves as overweight as black adolescent girls. The white students had 6.04 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.77, 20.67] times the odds of using pills and vomiting and 3.76 (95% CI, 2.99, 4.72) times the odds of engaging in dieting and exercising as methods of weight management compared to the black students.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that white adolescents are more likely to perceive themselves as overweight than black adolescents and are more likely to engage in unhealthy weight management practices than black adolescents.

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