A Cross-cultural exploration on the psychological aspects of skin color aesthetics: Implications for sun-related behavior

Hsin Yu Chen, June K. Robinson, Nina G. Jablonski

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14 Scopus citations


Sociocultural values toward skin color manifest in daily behaviors, such as sun-seeking behaviors in Euro-American culture and sun-protective behaviors in Chinese culture. However, little research has investigated how attitudes toward skin color affect sun-related behaviors in the face of conflicting cultural values. This study explores how sociocultural contexts shape attitudes toward skin color and sun-related behaviors in three groups of genetically Chinese women, located on a spectrum from predominantly Chinese culture to predominantly Euro-American culture. Using ethnographic and qualitative comparative approaches, interviews were conducted with (a) 15 Chinese women (Mage = 25; SD = 2.73) who grew up in mainland China until at least age 18 years and then moved to the United States, (b) 15 second-generation Chinese Americans (Mage = 20; SD = 1.16) raised in the United States by Chinese parents, and (c) 18 Chinese adoptees (Mage = 21; SD = 1.13) raised in the United States by Euro-American parents. Overall, Chinese women leaned toward Chinese culture, preferred lighter skin, and engaged in more sun-protection practices. Chinese adoptees leaned toward Euro-American culture, preferred tanned skin and sun-seeking behaviors, and experienced more sunburns. Chinese Americans had mixed results, exemplifying a double-bind in adherence to either Euro-American or Chinese cultural values. Findings elucidate the connections between sun-related behaviors and sociocultural backgrounds, especially how embracing Euro-American culture might increase sun exposure and sunburn tendency. Since sun exposure contributes to health outcomes (e.g., skin cancer, vitamin D status, and bone density), these findings have significant implications for public health prevention efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-243
Number of pages10
JournalTranslational behavioral medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 10 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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