Beauty, Ethnicity, and Age: Does Internalization of Mainstream Media Ideals Influence Attitudes Towards Older Adults?
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Mainstream North American media promotes the message that attaining a thin, youthful appearance is central to a woman’s value and social role while appearing older is highly undesirable. However, appearance ideals and attitudes toward aging differ substantially across cultural and ethnic groups, which may influence the degree to which one internalizes media ideals and holds anti-aging attitudes. Consequently, this study examined the relationships between internalization of the youthful, thin-ideal appearance perpetuated by mainstream North American media and attitudes toward the elderly in a sample of 281 undergraduate females under the age of 30 attending a university in the Western United States. Specifically, European American (n = 115), Asian American/Pacific Islander (n = 74), Hispanic/Latina (n = 52), and African American (n = 42) women voluntarily completed self-report measures of internalization of media ideals and attitudes towards older adults. Attitudes towards the elderly were significantly more negative at higher levels of internalization of North American appearance ideals, independent of ethnicity. These data suggest that internalization of North American appearance ideals perpetuated by media are related to negative attitudes towards older adults. Future research should investigate the influence of negative attitudes about aging on behaviors toward older adults or one’s own aging process.