Poor body image impacts people of all ages and genders. Now, a new center at the University of Missouri will bring together a diverse group of researchers dedicated to improving body image.

Poor body image impacts people of all ages and genders. Now, a new center at the University of Missouri will bring together a diverse group of researchers dedicated to improving body image.

Virginia Ramseyer Winter, a nationally recognized body image expert and assistant professor of social work, will serve as director for the Center for Body Image Research and Policy in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences. The interdisciplinary research center is aimed at improving body image, health and wellness for individuals, families and communities.

“So many factors can impact how a person perceives his or her appearance,” Ramseyer Winter said. “Race, age, education, medical history, family, peers and behaviors are just a few of the factors that can shape body image. In bringing together a diverse group of researchers, this one-of-a-kind center will hopefully produce research that will improve body image, thereby improving the well-being for Missourians and others across the U.S. and internationally.”

Ramseyer Winter along with Antoinette Landor, the center’s associate director, assistant professor of human development and family science, and a leading scholar on colorism and skin tone — a form of body image, will oversee multiple projects focused on body image, including developing trainings for foster parents, exploring how fathers of elementary school girls can promote positive body image, and examining skin tone and the tanning phenomenon among white young adults.

“Our team of researchers, educators and community agencies will not only produce high-quality research, but also work to make sure research is more accessible to the public,” Landor said. “We will provide education, as well as inform and support public policies that will promote positive body image.”

Upcoming research studies from the center interventions for foster parents and young adult women, research studies that aim to better understand how body image relates to health among understudied populations, such as mid-life adults, youth in foster care, and transgender youth as well as understanding the role of skin tone on intimate relationships and health among African American and white college students.

“The College of Human Environmental Sciences at Mizzou is committed to research that helps people improve their lives,” said Sandy Rikoon, dean. “I am very excited about this new effort because it brings together a diverse group of researchers to address an issue that has social, emotional, physical, behavioral and cultural implications. The new Center for Body Image Research and Policy is innovative and I know is going to have a lasting impact for people of all ages and genders.”

Other University of Missouri System faculty members who will work with the center include Kristen Morris, assistant professor of textile and apparel management at MU; Sarah Pilgrim, assistant professor of social work at UMKC, Erin Robinson, assistant professor of social work at MU; Michelle Teti, associate professor of health sciences at MU; and Fang Wang, assistant teaching professor of information technology, electrical engineering and computer science. Mackenzie Cook, doctoral candidate in the School of Social Work, and Michaella Ward, master’s student in social work and public health, are also working with the center.

Meghan Gillen, associate professor of psychology at Penn State Abington; Elizabeth O’Neill, assistant professor of social work at Washburn University; and Lindsay Rae Ruhr, assistant professor of social work at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, also are involved with the center.