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Celebrating cultural strengths to build resilience, self-esteem

Study looks to improve confidence in natural appearance

Two dark-haired women smiling and looking at the camera.

A new study by Marisol Perez, professor of psychology and associate dean of graduate initiatives at ASU, hopes to demonstrate the impact that strengths-based interventions can have on specific groups, such as the Hispanic/Latino community. Photo courtesy Omar Lopez/Unsplash

February 27, 2023

Nearly half of all teens have reported experiencing one or more forms of cyberbullying, with a majority reporting bullying centering around appearance or ethnic background. This appearance-based pressure can impact long-term self-esteem, confidence, physical and mental health.

A new study by Marisol Perez, professor of psychology and associate dean of graduate initiatives at Arizona State University, hopes to demonstrate the impact that strengths-based interventions can have on specific groups, such as the Hispanic/Latino community.

Currently, there are 35 million Latino youth in the United States and over 2.4 million Hispanic/Latinos reside in Arizona. With the support of the Dove Self-Esteem Project, Perez is launching “Celebrándome: Building self-confidence in Hispanic/Latinx Youth.” This project is expanding access to an evidence-based curriculum intended to improve beauty and appearance standards in Hispanic youth.

Perez previously launched initiatives for body positivity and hair positivity among African American youth.

Celebrandome (Celebrating Me) is a body confidence workshop that aims to increase children’s body satisfaction and self-esteem. The 60–90 minute workshop is implemented in person and is led by a facilitator in a group format with up to 15 children. The workshop involves having children think about the pressures they feel to change their appearance, ways to stop negative thoughts related to their bodies and ways to celebrate what our bodies allow us to do.

The curriculum is designed for teachers or any adult who's in charge of a youth group, such as Girl or Boy Scouts, coaches or community leaders. 

Eligible participants in the workshop will be compensated $100 to $150. To be eligible, children must be between 11 to 16 years old and identify as Hispanic, Latino or LatinxGender-neutral noun or adjective for a person from, or whose ancestors were from, a Spanish-speaking land or culture or from Latin America..

“This project is funded by the Dove Self-esteem Project, whose philanthropic mission is to increase the body confidence of all youth worldwide,” said Perez. “They hire researchers and experts in the field to create curriculum that is rigorously tested and then they disseminate it to everyone for free. What is awesome about this is that when we're done with the research, all of our materials will be available for free for anybody to use.”

Evidence has shown that young children are exposed to appearance-based pressures on a daily basis, through channels such as social media, television and in print advertisements, and it has been shown to impact self-esteem even as early as 5 years old. 

“What we find is that by age 5, kids start to report body dissatisfaction or a preoccupation with appearance concerns about their weight and their body size. By age 8 to 12, research shows that about 25% to 52% of youth report body dissatisfaction,” said Perez. “It's also associated at that age with starting to skip meals, with unhealthy dieting behaviors, low self-esteem and some depressive symptoms as well.”

To help combat these pressures, Perez and her lab also produced a library of resources for parents to help their young children navigate developing confidence in how they look. These activities range from as little as 20 minutes to fully integrated 60-minute discussions on how to create an action plan to deal with the pressures of social media influencers. 

“When kids are little, the mirror is a fun toy; however, we see that as kids age, the mirror changes over time to become something that's really coupled with body dissatisfaction, appearance, insecurities,” said Perez. “Our goal is to actually start teaching them young in schools with a curriculum that builds their confidence so that they don't start down this negative pathway. We want to have a future generation of youth that actually aren't worried about their looks and are more concentrated on skill-building — things that are essential for their life.”

The Body Image Research and Health Disparities (BIRHD) lab is looking for 200 Hispanic/Latino families with children between the ages of 11 to 16 years old. Interested participants or leaders can sign up using this link

Video courtesy the ASU Department of Psychology

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