Technological and economic globalisation has been suggested as a cause of increasing rates of body dissatisfaction and eating disorders globally, especially as regards the impact of mass media on internalised body ideals. This process is rarely observed in action, however. The current work investigates multiple aspects of body ideals, body image, sociocultural attitudes and eating attitudes in 62 Creole and Mestizo women living in communities at differing stages of technological development on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.

In Study 1, women used 3D avatar software to create their own ‘ideal’ body without the constraints of ready-made stimuli. Analyses of resulting avatars showed that components of the ideal body shape (upper and lower body curvaceousness) but not body size (body mass) were associated with levels of film and television consumption. In Study 2, women completed measures of variables in the sociocultural model of eating disorder risk. As expected, body dissatisfaction mediated the relationship between internalisation of sociocultural body ideals and pathological eating attitudes. In contrast, body appreciation reduced pathological eating attitudes, via reduced body dissatisfaction. Finally, Study 3 measured sociocultural influences, body image and eating attitudes at 2 or 3 timepoints per woman; body dissatisfaction covaried with pathological eating attitudes across time. Ethnicity varied in its effects across studies.

Together these data show that even at early stages of media acculturation, women may show similar patterns of association between sociocultural internalisation, body dissatisfaction and eating disorder risk as in high income nations. However, they also demonstrate unique aspects of this population’s body shape ideals, and the independent protective effect of body appreciation.

University of Lincoln, College of Social Science

T. Thornborrow, University of Lincoln, School of Psychology

E. H. Evans, Durham University, Department of Psychology

M. J. Tovee, Northumbria University, Department of Psychology

L. G. Boothroyd, Durham University, Department of Psychology