Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

David W. Pantalone

Second Advisor

Jennifer B. Webb

Third Advisor

Tangela Roberts


Background: Black sexual minority women (SMW) are underrepresented in body image research, limiting our understanding of body image experiences at the intersection of gender, race, and sexual orientation. However, research focused separately on the body image experiences of Black heterosexual women and White SMW suggest that gender, racial, and sexual orientation identities influence body image in important ways (e.g., Altabe, 1998; Mason, Lewis, & Heron, 2018). In this current study, I aimed to (a) better understand the range of body image experiences among Black SMW; (b) test for measurement invariance in existing body image measures across Black SMW, Black heterosexual women, and White SMW; and (c) learn Black SMW’s expressed reactions to existing body image measures. I hypothesized that there would be significant within-group differences in body image based on various demographic variables, that existing body image measures would largely demonstrate measurement invariance across groups, and that Black SMW would identify aspects of current body image measures that are helpful as well as ways to improve existing measures. Methods: I recruited a sample of 98 Black SMW ages 18-66 years (M = 29.26, SD = 8.10) who were diverse in terms of sexual orientation, gender expression, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status—as well as comparison samples of 82 Black heterosexual women ages 18-76 years (M = 32.94, SD = 11.82) and 98 White SMW 18-62 years (M = 31.76, SD = 8.76). All participants completed an anonymous cross-sectional online survey with a variety of demographic and body image measures. A subset of eight Black SMW sample were interviewed to further explore their perspectives on the body image survey measures. Results: Within this sample of Black SMW, body image differed significantly though inconsistently across measures, based on various aspects of identity. Measurement invariance across groups was found for the Body Appreciation Scale-2 and two subscales of the Experience of Embodiment Scale, but not for any subscales of the Multidimensional Body–Self Relations Questionnaire—Appearance Scales. This sample of Black SMW largely found the body image measures in this survey acceptable but noted some language concerns and identified important missing constructs of relevance to their embodied experiences (e.g., colorism). Discussion: Results indicate that consideration of many different aspects of identity is important for understanding Black SMW’s body image experiences. Additional research is needed to further explore within-group body image differences for Black SMW in a truly intersectional way that was not possible with the current methods and sample size. Future studies should also further explore psychometric properties of existing body image measures for Black SMW and adjust items to establish measurement invariance across groups. Additionally, researchers should also adapt existing measures to include missing constructs important to Black SMW’s experiences. Clinicians should be aware of the diversity of body image experiences among Black SMW and should explore how clients’ lived experiences impact their feelings about their bodies. Clinicians should also consider integrating elements of body appreciation into discussion of body image with clients.


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