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Ullrich, H.E. (2010). Is Beauty Skin Deep? The Impact of “Beautiful Attributes” on Life Opportunities and Interpersonal Relationships: A Tale of Two Sisters in South India. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 38(2):243-253.

(2010). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 38(2):243-253

Is Beauty Skin Deep? The Impact of “Beautiful Attributes” on Life Opportunities and Interpersonal Relationships: A Tale of Two Sisters in South India

Helen E. Ullrich

The focus of this article is the impact of culturally perceived beauty and its attributes on identity formation and interpersonal relationships. In South India skin color is perhaps the most important aspect of beauty. Socialization starts from infancy, as people talk openly about a child's skin color and other “beautiful attributes” from the time of a child's birth. Women with the cultural designation of beautiful are more assertive than those women designated unattractive. Moreover, the increased self-confidence associated with their beauty allows them greater leeway to shape their lives according to their own desires. I will discuss culturally relevant “beautiful attributes” and the developmental impact on two sisters. The older sister was regarded as beautiful while her younger sister was considered less attractive. Cultural validation provides a theater for assertiveness while denigration enhances vulnerability to depression.

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