Document Type



The primary objective of this research is to explore the unique body image concerns of women experiencing homelessness, an understudied population in body image research. The hypothesis is that women who are currently homeless and who have experienced longer periods of homelessness will be more likely to have poorer body image. Homeless women may not possess the means to modify their appearance with hygiene products or facilities (Hoffman & Coffey, 2008). Also, an inconsistent food source may influence some women to binge when food is available, or to eat unhealthy foods that result in weight gain (Bove & Olsen, 2006). A large number of homeless women have been sexually victimized (Hudson et al., 2010), which may place them at greater risk for feelings of disgust for their bodies (Schechter, Schwartz, & Greenfield, 1987). Those experiencing homelessness may be more likely to have identity confusion (Osborne, 2002), which can lead to internalization of society’s beauty standards (Vartanian, 2009). A sample of 60 women from St. Francis House, a nonprofit shelter in Boston, MA, were administered a questionnaire that measured access to hygiene resources, food security, sexual victimization, self-esteem, and body esteem. Results indicated that participants had moderately high body esteem on average across all three subscales of the Body Esteem Scale, and body esteem was positively correlated with self-esteem. Surprisingly, body esteem was not significantly correlated with all other variables, including length of homelessness. However, regression analyses showed that race, weight, and access to hygiene products were related to body esteem. Being currently homeless was also associated with greater identity confusion, lower self-esteem, and greater food insecurity. These results may influence the direction on future research on this diverse, underrepresented group of women.



Thesis Comittee

Laura Ramsey (Thesis Director)

Melissa Singer

Elizabeth Spievak

Copyright and Permissions

Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.

Included in

Psychology Commons