This paper examines the understudied Latina population and the effects of media on their body image. To date, research has ignored this population or aggregated all Latin-American sub-cultures into one general category, missing the nuances of each culture. A review of current literature utilizing cultivation theory and social comparison theory is offered. Important findings suggest that social support and ethnic identity may offer a buffering effect between media exposure and body dissatisfaction, but more research needs to clarify this process. The effects of media and the internalization of the ‘thin ideal’ become stronger the longer Latina women live in the United States and acculturate to mainstream culture. Implications for body image research include psychological issues, such as lower self-esteem, depression, and anxiety, and can often lead to disordered eating. Future directions for studies are discussed.

Key Take Away Points

  • Latinas remain an understudied population in body image literature.
  • Latinas need to be studied as individual sub-groups, instead of being aggregated together.
  • Social support and ethnic identity buffering effects have been found between media exposure and body dissatisfaction.
  • The longer Latinas live in the US & the more generations born in the US, the more likely acculturation will take place and effects on body image from media are more likely.

Author Biography

D. Milton Stokes, PhD, MPH, RD, CDN, is a Registered Dietitian / Nutritionist and former owner of One Source Nutrition, LLC. He has over 20 years of experience in the areas of food and nutrition as a nutrition counselor and former restaurateur. Christopher F. Clemens, MFA, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts at San Francisco State University where he teaching courses on media effects research and video production. His research focuses on gender and sexuality in media, media effects, and media literacy. Diana I. Rios, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Connecticut. Her research cuts across specialties in communication by considering media and intercultural communication processes. Her research areas are interdisciplinary: Mass Media, Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies, Ethnicity/Race, Gender/Women Studies. Professor Rios has also served as Associate Director, and later Director, of Puerto Rican & Latino Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut.