Psychology department conducts year-long body image study

Published by adviser, Author: Haley Barnes - Rocket Contributor, Date: October 3, 2013

Three Slippery Rock professors from the psychology department along with ten psychology majors are teaming up to perform a year-long study on how the lesbian, gay, bisexual community feel about their bodies.

The point of the study is to examine issues like body image, relationships, and eating behaviors along with risk factors like smoking and drinking in the LGB population.

The study is being led by Catherine Massey, associate professor of psychology, Emily Keener, assistant professor of psychology, and Jennifer Sanftner, professor of psychology. The ten students include Michelle Giaquinto, Sam Griffiths, Sara Habraken, Chelsea Kelligher, Ashlee Moeller, Michelle Mullins, Jake Rogers, Melanie Seymour, Lesli Somerset, and Ashley Snyder. Seymour and Moeller are student leaders of the study.

The students involved in performing the research will learn research methods and will be able to apply their previous knowledge from courses they have taken.

Keener feels research is not accurate, as it only focuses on one body image. This study will result in a better approach. The study will contrast against the findings against those of the heterosexual population.

“The gay, lesbian, and bisexual population is understudied when it comes to the various factors that impact their health and well-being. Most research is based on heterosexual samples and then generalized to everyone,” Keener said.

Massey hopes to involve up to 400 people from all over the United States in the study. Ages of the study subjects will range from 18 to 40. The study will be conducted through a 230 question survey that includes questions about personality, relationships, identity, diversity, and life experiences.

“The fact that we are including gay and lesbian participants is great. Few studies have done so, but what is really exciting is that our sample includes not only heterosexuals, gays, and lesbians, but also people who identify as bisexual, pansexual, and transgender from the community as well as from college campuses,” Keener said.

Massey would like to see results that will develop a program to directly help the LGB community improve their health, behavior, and overall, and their self-image. However, the study is being labeled as a pilot study, meaning it is the first time to be conducted by SRU professors and students. There are expected imperfections, but in the future Massey would like to expand the study for different age groups.

This study has been approved through the SRU’s Institutional Review Board and started in May with an SRU Dean’s Faculty-Student Grant from the College of Health, Environment and Science. The work is likely to end in June 2014. Many presentations, conferences, and publications in journals are expected to follow after the results of the study have been determined.


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