Diverse women aging in America: Attitudes toward menopause and self-objectification in midlife and beyond




Bergen, Martha

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Negative messages about aging are prevalent in the U.S., and especially common with regard to women's aging and women's physical appearance. These messages are harmful for women, who often internalize an observer's view of their bodies (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997) and view menopause as a negative sign of aging (Bloch, 2002; Wilk & Kirk, 1995) and losing beauty, youth, and value (Kaufert, 1982). Some studies suggest that there are cultural differences in views of menopause (Avis et al., 2001; Holmes-Rovner et al., 1996; Marvan, Islas, Vela, Chrisler, & Warren, 2008; Sampselle, Harris, Harlow, & Sowers, 2002) and attitudes about menopause, symptoms of menopause, and body image may be related (Bloch; McKinley & Lyon, 2008), but more research is needed to further understanding in this area. The current investigation assessed group differences in experiences of menopause and body image at midlife. Women from a community sample (n = 397) completed a demographic survey, the Menopause Attitude Scale (Bowles, 1986), the Menopause Symptom List (Perz, 1997), the Figure Rating Scale (Stunkard, Sorenson, & Schlusinger, 1983), the Self-Objectification Questionnaire (Noll & Fredrickson, 1998), and the Objectified Body Consciousness Scale (McKinley & Hyde, 1996). Results indicated that younger participants experienced more body shame and body surveillance compared to older women, but older women reported higher levels of self-objectification. White women reported higher levels of body shame and body dissatisfaction-think than African American women. Younger women, White women, women who experienced more body shame and body dissatisfaction-feel reported more negative views of menopause. Body shame and body dissatisfaction-feel were associated with more frequent and severe psychological symptoms of menopause. A path analysis showed that White women, premenopausal women, and women who reported more body dissatisfaction-feel also reported more negative views about menopause. Holding more negative attitudes about menopause predicted experiencing more problematic symptoms of menopause. These findings have important implications for research, theory, and practice in the field of psychology and shed much needed light onto the midlife menopausal and body image experiences of African American and White women in the United States.



Social sciences, Psychology, Womens studies, Counseling Psychology, Middle age, Multiculturalism & pluralism, Self image, Middle age, Attitudes