Date of Award

10-30-2020

Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Rosanne Menna

Keywords

Body image, Disordered eating, Gender, Objectification, Social media

Rights

info:eu-repo/semantics/openAccess

Abstract

The present study examined sociocultural factors associated with disordered eating among adolescent girls. The objective of Part 1 of the study was to explore the associations between social media use, socialized gender variables, and eating pathology. Participants were 238 adolescent girls between 14 and 17 years of age. Participants completed online measures assessing eating pathology, objectified body consciousness, social media use, and self-esteem. Results of Part 1 indicated that girls used photo-based social media applications – in particular, Instagram and Snapchat – for between one and four hours per day. Time spent using and frequency of checking social media were associated with disordered eating and body dissatisfaction. Engagement with photo-based social media, invested personal use of photo-based social media, and editing physical appearance in photographs were also associated with disordered eating, body dissatisfaction, and body surveillance. A path analysis supported the existence of significant associations between engagement with photo-based social media, internalization of the thin ideal, physical appearance comparison, body surveillance, body shame, self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, and disordered eating, with the combination of variables explaining 67% of the variance in disordered eating. A subsample of participants who completed Part 1 (n = 77) agreed to complete Parts 2 and 3 of the study. The objective of Part 2 of the study was to explore the image of the “ideal girl”, and to assess whether preferences for appearance were associated with social media use and/or eating pathology. Participants were asked about their perceptions of and preferences for appearance. Participants were also shown images of three young women and asked about their perceptions of each girl’s appearance, as well as their perceptions of each girl’s preferences for her appearance. Results of Part 2 indicated that girls wanted their bodies (in general), as well as most specific body parts, to be thinner and more muscular. Higher scores on variables related to disordered eating (e.g., body dissatisfaction, thin ideal internalization, and physical appearance comparison), objectification (e.g., body surveillance and body shame), and engagement with photo-based social media were associated with stronger preferences for idealized appearance. When examining perceptions of preferences for appearance among other women, girls reported believing that other women wanted to be more muscular, but not necessarily thinner. Consistent with this, adolescents appeared to have stronger preferences for idealized appearance for themselves compared to others, and were also more dissatisfied with aspects of their own appearance than they expected other women to be with aspects of their appearances. The objective of Part 3 of the study was to assess whether adherence to idealized standards for appearance among girls affected adolescents’ perceptions of their attractiveness and interpersonal qualities. Participants were randomly assigned to view a photograph of a young woman – those assigned to the “idealized” condition viewed an image in which the woman fit the appearance of the ideal girl; those assigned to “non-idealized” condition viewed an image in which the same woman did not fit the appearance of the ideal girl. Participants then completed a measure assessing the woman’s physical attractiveness, social attractiveness, and task competence. Participants who viewed the idealized photograph perceived the woman as being more competent to perform tasks; they also expected the woman to receive more “Likes” if she were to post her photo on social media. Perceptions of the woman’s physical and social attractiveness did not significantly differ between conditions. Overall, findings of the present study have implications for understanding the role of sociocultural influences – including photo-based social media use, and adherence to idealized standards for appearance – in the development of issues related to body image and disordered eating among adolescent girls.

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