Body Image Issues in Early Teen Girls: Effects of Media
Ivana Pejakovic B.Sc., MA
Exposure to underweight models can have serious consequences to teen girls’ psychological and physical health. Research has shown that thin-ideal internalization is related to lower self-esteem, unhealthy dieting behaviours, and eating disorder behaviours (Harrison, 2001; Johnson & Wardle, 2005; Tiggemann, 2005).
Thin-ideal internalization refers to the extent to which an individual accepts or absorbs socially defined ideals of attractiveness and engages in behaviours to achieve this look. Research has shown that thin-ideal internalization increases body dissatisfaction, dieting, and negative affect (Keery, Boutelle, van den Berg, Thompson, 2005).
Body Dissatisfaction and Media
Body dissatisfaction, although common among females of all ages, is “especially prevalent during adolescence when body image is the most important component of adolescent girls’ self-esteem” (Hargreaves & Tiggemann, 2004, p. 351). Alarmingly, studies have found that even girls as young as 9 years old have considerable dissatisfaction with their bodies (Hill, Draper, & Stack, 1994).
Investigation of possible causes or contributors to body dissatisfaction in young girls has consistently pointed the finger at exposure to the unrealistically thin female body images in the media (Botta, 1999; Champion & Furnham, 1999; Stice, Spangler, & Agras, 2001).
Correlational studies have shown that young females who watch more television and who read more magazines report higher dissatisfaction with their bodies (Anderson, Huston, Schmitt, Linebarger, & Wright, 2001; Harrison, 2000). Experimental studies have shown that exposure to unrealistically thin and idealized female body images leads to increased state body dissatisfaction for adolescent girls (Durkin & Paxton, 2002; Hargreaves & Tiggemann, 2002).
Considering the effects of media on teenage girls’ psychological well being, it is vital parents take steps to educate teens on media literacy. Media literate teens are able to analyze visual and audio messages received from TV, magazines, the Web, etc., and are able to critically think about them before they accept what they are exposed to as the truth. With an instinct to question the motives of the producers, teens can be less susceptible to the messages they receive.
Ivana Pejakovic , Toronto Life Coach
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