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Cultural Expectations Of Thinness In Women

Garner, D. M., Garfinkel, P.E., Schwartz, D. & Thompson, M. (1980). Cultural expectations of thinness in women. Psychological Reports, 47, 483-491.

This paper was a published in 1980 and was the first to document and quantify a thinner shape standard in Western culture over the twenty-year period from 1959 to 1979 using data from Playboy Centerfolds and Miss American Pageant contestants to illustrate this trend.   Over the same period this paper provided evidence that there was a significant increase in diet articles in six popular women’s magazines. These changes occurred within the context of increasing population weight norms for young women during the same time-period. Biosocial implications including the apparent recent increase in anorexia nervosa were discussed in this paper.  In 1980, the idea that culture was a significant factor in eating disorders was a rather radical idea but today, it is widely accepted.  There have been a number subsequent papers over the years that examined changes in Playboy Centerfolds as an index of changes in cultural expectations for thinness in women, but this was the first.

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