An Examination of Self-Presentational Concern of Turkish Adolescents: An Example of Physical Education Setting

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INTRODUCTION

In an increasingly image-based society, it is important to understand the roles adolescents' bodily concern and self-presentation play in their lives. The culturally accepted ideal stereotype appears to promote a "societal obsession" with body shape, size, weight, virility, and appearance of one's body (Stice & Shaw, 1994). Physical appearance is a particularly important psychological construct associated with social acceptance among adolescents (Lerner, Lerner, Hess, Schwab, Jovanic, Talwar, & Kicher, 1991) and the drive for thinness among adolescent females in Western societies is a prominent issue (Gray, 1993; Sands, 2000; White, 1992) that is of concern to educators, health professionals, and sports trainers. The drive for thinness has been associated with self-concept (Strauman & Glenberg, 1994), body image (Slade, 1994), body weight (Striegel-Moore, Screiber, Pike, Wilfley, & Rodin, 1995) and social physique anxiety as an important dimension of self-presentation (Hart, Leary, & Rejeski, 1989).

Self-presentation is an attempt to selectively present aspects of oneself or to omit revealing information to maximize a positive impression and avoid an undesired impression (Leafy, 1992; Leary & Kowalski, 1990). The nature of self-presentation has been the focus of research on a wide variety of interpersonal phenomena, including attitude development (Schlenker, Forsyth, Leafy, & Miller, 1980), perceived exertion (Hardy, Hall, & Presholdt, 1986), and exercise adherence (Crawford & Eklund, 1994). Self-presentation is also an essential part of interpersonal conduct and influences one's social life, employment, and romantic involvement (Leafy & Kowalski, 1990). It also may be an important determinant of behavior, cognition, and affect in the exercise and sport setting (Hausenblas, Brewer, & Raalte, 2004).

Impression management pervades all areas of life. Those who are particularly attuned to others' perception of them are concerned with behaving in accordance with situational norms, social approval, and evaluation of their physical appearance. Concern for how one's body is judged by others is called Social Physique Anxiety (Leafy, 1992). This has been found to correlate with a number of psychosocial variables such as global self-esteem, body esteem, weight dissatisfaction, and body dissatisfaction (Crawford & Eklund, 1994), in addition to eating attitudes, motives to exercise, and exercise behavior patterns (Crawford & Eklund, 1994; Eklund & Crawford, 1994). Social physique anxiety may also play an important role in determining where and with whom people exercise (Spink, 1992), one's affective responses to exercise (Focht & Hausenblas, 2001), and level of effort while exercising (Boutcher, Fleischer-Curtian, & Gines, 1988).

Social physique anxiety is an important self-presentational concern for adolescents in particular. Besides being seen by others as cool, fun to be with, and risk takers, physical attractiveness is highly valued by adolescents (Ginis & Leary, 2004). Thus, the school environment is an important setting for studying their self-presentational concerns--particularly in physical education class where the body is subject to evaluation by others. Previous research has indicated that exercisers with high social physique anxiety may prefer exercising in a private setting (Spink, 1992), prefer to exercise alone (Belling, 1992), and tend to have a less favorable attitude toward coeducational classes (Bain, Wilson, & Chaikind, 1989). In addition, high social physique anxiety is related to excessive (Frederick & Morrison, 1996) or low (Lantz, Hardy, & Ainsworth, 1997) exercise participation. Furthermore, those who suffer from social physique anxiety prefer fitness types of activity (Frederick & Morrison, 1996), dislike coed aerobic dancing classes (Eklund & Crawford, 1994), and exercise for self-presentational reasons (Eklund & Crawford, 1994; Frederick & Morrison, 1996). …