"The Effect of Interpersonal Relationships on the Body Image of First Year, Women of Color Studying at Predominately White Undergraduate Institutions" by Lauren Kross, a 2014 graduate student in the Gender and Women's Studies Department at Minnesota State University Mankato, focuses on how relationships and peer groups positively or negatively impact the body image of first year women of color studying at Minnesota State University Mankato, a predominately white undergraduate institution. The first year of college is a time that students experience many changes in their environment, academics, interests, and identity development. Their previously formed and newly formed relationships play a big role in their identity development. Building on the work of student development scholars who suggest that women's relationships aid in identity development and, therefore, influence the actions and feelings of that individual, my research finds that the participants are more likely to have a positive body image if their peer groups and friends feel positively about their body image. In addition, the women who expressed having a positive body image also explained that they defend their body and their choices confidently in negative interactions or when receiving negative comments. This differs from other research suggesting that women of color attending predominately white undergraduate institutions develop coping mechanisms for dealing with racial tension and campus environment rather than resolving the conflict. The women in my research responded to negative interactions with peers using conflict resolution. However, the majority of the participants did not have negative interactions with peers of different races while attending school so far. I was surprised that only two participants expressed having any type of negative interaction with a peer since coming to college. I think that this was due to the fact that many participants attended predominately white high schools and came from predominately white local areas.


Jocelyn Stitt

Committee Member

Laura Harrison

Committee Member

Jennifer Pepperell

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Social and Behavioral Sciences

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License



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