Self-objectification and eating disorder pathology in an ethnically diverse sample of adult women: Cross-sectional and short-term longitudinal associations

Lisa Smith Kilpela, Rachel Calogero, Salomé A. Wilfred, Christina L. Verzijl, Willie J. Hale, Carolyn Black Becker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Extensive support exists for objectification theory's original aim of explaining patterns of women's mental health risk through a sociocultural lens. One pathway in objectification theory proposes a mediational role of body shame in the relationship between self-objectification and eating disorder (ED) pathology. Robust past cross-sectional research supports this proposed pathway, but largely in non-Hispanic Caucasian, college-aged samples; this pathway has yet to be empirically demonstrated longitudinally. Given previously documented concerns regarding direct measurement of body shame, we tested two measures of body shame as mediators in both cross-sectional and longitudinal models in a diverse sample of adult women. Method: Utilizing snowball sampling via email, we recruited age and racially/ethnically diverse women predominantly within the United States. Participants completed online surveys assessing self-objectification (operationalized as body surveillance), body shame, and ED pathology at baseline, 3-months and 6-months. Results: Racial/ethnic minority (n = 139) and non-Hispanic Caucasian (n = 181) adult women completed the measures. Cross-sectional moderated mediation models indicated that racial/ethnic status did not moderate relationships, and that body shame significantly mediated the relation between body surveillance and ED pathology at each time point. The longitudinal model, analyzed using cross-lagged panel analyses, was nonsignificant, as body surveillance failed to predict future body shame when controlling for past body shame. Conclusions: Racial/ethnic status did not moderate relations at any time point. Cross-sectional findings replicated past research; the longitudinal model did not support a core mediation pathway linking self-objectification to ED pathology through body shame. Because self-objectification putatively develops earlier in life, future research also should examine these relations in younger diverse samples over a longer time period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number45
JournalJournal of Eating Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 3 2019


  • Body shame
  • Eating disorder pathology
  • Longitudinal mediation
  • Racial and ethnic minority
  • Self-objectification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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