Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Franzoi, Stephen L.

Second Advisor

Saunders, Stephen

Third Advisor

Grych, John


While considerable research has been devoted to the impact that the mainstream media and parents have on body image, less is known about how romantic partners' beliefs and perceptions impact individuals' evaluations of both their physical selves and their relationships. This study examined the influence of individually-endorsed cultural sexism on romantic partners' tendency to hold positive illusions about their significant others' physical appearance and the impact of sexism and positive illusions of physical attractiveness on body esteem and relationship satisfaction. Evidence of positive illusions of physical attractiveness was found, but there was no significant association between gender and positive illusion endorsement. There was no significant correlation between men's benevolent sexism (BS) and their endorsement of positive illusions. Multiple regression analyses indicated that men's and women's endorsements of positive illusions did not significantly impact partners' body esteem. Instead, results suggest that a person's view of his/her self (i.e., self-ratings of attractiveness) most strongly impacts one's body esteem. Additionally, men's BS was found to positively impact women's Sexual Attractiveness body esteem, while women's BS positively impacted men's Physical Attractiveness body esteem. Women's BS was positively associated with their own Weight Concern body esteem while women's hostile sexism (HS) was found to have a negative impact on this body esteem dimension. Multiple regression analyses did not produce significant findings with regard to women's relationship satisfaction, while men's relationship satisfaction was found to be positively impacted by their positive illusions of partners' physical attractiveness. Implications of these findings are discussed.