The role of racial objectification on Asian American women's disordered eating and depression: A person-centered approach

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Brady, Jennifer Lauren
Iwamoto, Derek K
Objectification theory has enhanced understanding of disordered eating and depression among college women, yet the experiences of Asian American women (AAW) have comparably received limited empirical attention. Investigating AAW is important because emerging evidence suggests that AAW, compared to other racial groups, report similar, if not elevated, rates of eating disorder symptoms and depression, yet do not seek out or receive the services they need. Additionally, AAW experience distinct forms of both sexual and racial objectification that can increase evaluation of not only general body shape and size, but also racialized features (e.g., face, skin-tone, and eye-size). The present study tested a culture-specific extension of objectification theory using a person-centered approach. The aims of this study were to a) identify subgroups (e.g., latent classes) of AAW (N = 554) based upon their general and group-specific self-objectification processes, b) examine the racial objectification predictors (e.g., general racism, gendered racial microaggressions and racial identity) of latent class membership, and c) examine the extent to which these latent classes are related to disordered eating and depressive symptomatology. Using latent class analysis, four classes were identified: a) High Self-Objectification class (37.2%), reported highest levels across all indicators, b) Moderate Self-Objectification class (40.1%), reported mid-range levels of self-objectification across all indicators, c) Body Conscious class (7.3%), reported high levels of body consciousness and body shame, and d) Appearance Acceptance class (15.5%), reported lowest levels across all indicators. The High Self-Objectification class reported significantly higher rates of disordered eating and depression. Women were more likely to be in the High Self-Objectification class if they experienced higher levels of gendered racial microaggressions and racial dissonance. Results can advance the literature by demonstrating significant with-in group variability in self-objectification processes among AAW and offer valuable clinical implications for targeting high-risk groups.