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MCN Am J Matern Child Nurs. 2002 Jan-Feb;27(1):20-5.

Attitudes and perceptions of body image in postpartum African American women. Does weight make a difference?

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Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA.



To describe the attitudes and perceptions of body image of African American postpartum women, and the differences in these measures when body mass index (BMI) was considered.


Descriptive comparative.


Secondary analysis of a larger study. The sample was 45 African American women. Body image was assessed using the Attitude to Body Image Scale (ABIS) and the topographic device. Participants were grouped according to BMI categories. Body image differences by BMI category were determined using ANOVA.


The mean ABIS score for the total sample was 2.8 (range = 1.0-5.8). Although not statistically significantly different, the mean ABIS score for the overweight/obese group was 3.4 (SD = 0.42), for the normal weight group the mean score was 2.8 (SD = 0.22) and for the underweight group it was 2.6 (SD = 0.24). The mean amount of perceived space occupied was 30.0 while the mean amount of actual space occupied was 21.0 in (N = 45). When the perceptual component was assessed, all women, irrespective of size, considered themselves larger than they actually were. However, perceptions did not differ by body mass category.


Nurses can use this information to plan culturally sensitive postpartum care relative to body image and weight. Healthcare providers may wish to develop interventions that foster healthy lifestyle behaviors, such as healthy eating habits, based on health promotion rather than on weight loss. With this caveat in mind, performing a 24-hr recall of foods eaten would be an appropriate assessment strategy.

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