Appearance Culture in Nine- to 12-Year-Old Girls: Media and Peer Influences on Body Dissatisfaction

Authors


Levina Clark, School of Psychology, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia. Email: Levina.Clark@flinders.edu.au

Abstract

Little research has investigated sociocultural factors in the development of body dissatisfaction in preadolescent girls. This study examined the combined influence of media and peer factors. The participants were 100 girls aged nine to 12 years. The girls completed questionnaire measures of media exposure (television and magazines), peer influences (appearance norms, appearance conversations), internalization and body dissatisfaction. Their height and weight were also measured. About half (49 percent) of the girls displayed a desire to be thinner. The influence of sociocultural factors was confirmed in addition to biological determinants, such as body mass index. Their exposure to appearance-focused media was not directly related to their body dissatisfaction, but was indirectly related via their conversations about appearance among peers. The path analysis showed that peer appearance conversations demonstrated a significant relationship with internalization of thin ideals, which was, in turn, significantly related to body dissatisfaction. Like their adolescent counterparts, preadolescent girls are also exposed to appearance ideals presented in the media and manifested among peers. The results provided evidence for the existence of an ‘appearance culture’ consisting of interrelated media and peer influences among girls as young as nine to 12 years of age.

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