This study examined the way acculturation affects Alaska Native women’s body perception. A secondary goal was to establish an understanding of interactions of native peoples with the majority society. Little research has been conducted regarding the ways in which indigenous people are affected by societal norms, although much research has identified how immigrant people groups are affected. It was hypothesized that while the ideal body image of both cultures may be similar as a result of adherence to cultural norms, the Alaska Native sample would be more accepting of their bodies than the White Alaskan sample. It was hypothesized for this study that the more acculturated Alaska Native women to Western culture, the more likely they would be to have a similar ideal body image to that of the majority culture. This study used two sample groups, one Native Alaskan women and the other White Alaskan women. Both sample groups were asked to use the Body Image Assessment – Obesity (BIA-O) to measure their perceived ideal body image and the body shape closest to their own body image. The Alaska Native group was also asked to fill out a Cultural Lifestyle Inventory (CLI) which assessed their level of acculturation. The scores on the BIA-O and the CLI were then compared to determine if the level of acculturation had an effect on the body images of the Alaska Natives. Further, the Alaska Native group’s BIA-O scores were compared to the White Alaskan sample group to determine if there was a difference in perceived ideal body image between the groups. The results suggest there is a significant difference between how Alaska Native women perceive their ideal body types and how White women perceive their ideal body type. There is also some suggestion that the level of acculturation is a predictor in ideal body image for the Alaska Native women. Therefore, Western acculturation appears to be a significant determinant of body image. This suggests some adherence to the majority culture by the Alaska Native women living in urban settings.
Williams, Travis; Bufford, Rodger K.; Thurston, Nancy S.; and Gathercoal, Kathleen, "Acculturation and the body image of Alaska Native Women" (2009). Faculty Publications - Grad School of Clinical Psychology. 31.