Body Image: A Handbook of Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice

By Thomas F. Cash; Thomas Pruzinsky | Go to book overview

9

Body Image Development
in Adolescence

MICHAEL P. LEVINE
LINDA SMOLAK

Body image is a very important aspect of psychological and interpersonal development in adolescence, particularly for girls. This chapter summarizes the research findings on body image in girls and boys ages 12–17.

No large-scale epidemiological studies have assessed the multidimensional aspects of body image in adolescent girls and boys. However, we do know that approximately 40–70% of adolescent girls are dissatisfied with two or more aspects of their body. Discontentment typically focuses on sites of substantial adipose tissue in the middle or lower body, such as hips, buttocks, stomach, and thighs. In various developed countries, between 50% and 80% of adolescent girls would like to be thinner, and the point prevalence of self-reported dieting varies from 20% to 60%. Thus the widespread nature of weight and shape dissatisfaction in adolescent girls (and adult women) can be fairly characterized as a "normative discontentment." There is little research on the meaning and correlates of positive body image.

Boys and young men also wish to avoid being (or appearing) fat, flabby, or out of shape. However, among boys who are dissatisfied with their weight and shape, at least an equal number, and perhaps considerably more, seek to gain weight and to develop bigger upper arms, chests, and shoulders.


DEVELOPMENTAL FACTORS

Age Trends

Pubertal developmentingirlsisaccompaniedby anaverage weight gainof50 pounds. This includes 20–30 pounds of fat, much of it deposited in the hips,

-74-

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