Academic journal article Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal

Factors Influencing Body Image in Female Adolescent Athletes

Academic journal article Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal

Factors Influencing Body Image in Female Adolescent Athletes

Article excerpt

Abstract

Recent research has noted an increase in body image dissatisfaction among adolescents and adults. One group that seems to be particularly at risk for body image dissatisfaction is female athletes. However, few studies have examined what factors might influence body image dissatisfaction in female athletes. The present study surveyed 146 female high school athletes to determine which factors influence their body image. We found that body image related to several physical and psychological health variables, including physical ailments, negative health habits, stress, fatigue, anger, tension, depression, confusion, negative affect, and use of ineffective coping styles. Finally, several parental health habits related to female body image including maternal smoking and maternal and paternal nutrition habits. In sum, coaches and parents need to emphasize healthy habits, as well as effective coping strategies when dealing with female athletes. In addition, parents must realize the impact they have on their daughter's body image.

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With the recent increase of body image dissatisfaction in adults (Cash, 1997), researchers have turned their attention to adolescents in order to determine whether they have suffered the same fate. Unfortunately, similar to findings with adults, recent studies have indicated an increase in the rate of eating disorders reported in adolescence over the past few decades (Fombonne, 1998). Furthermore, although researchers are reporting eating disturbances and body dissatisfaction at younger and younger ages, including elementary school children (Hill, Draper, & Stack, 1994; Smolak & Levine, 1994), there seems to be a noticeable increase in body dissatisfaction and disordered eating as students transition from middle to high school (Phelps et al., 1993; Xiao, Huon, & Qian, 2001). Specifically, this trend seems to be most prevalent in females, with 20% of high school females exhibiting disturbed eating patterns (Taub & Blinde, 1994), and nearly 60% having recently tried to lose weight (Ryu, 2001).

One of the factors that seems to put adolescents at an increased risk for body image dissatisfaction and eating disorders is participation in athletics, especially in sports that require leanness (Brooks-Gunn, Burrow, & Warren, 1988; Patel, Greydanus, Pratt, & Phillips, 2003; Roberts, Glen, & Kreipe, 2003; Smolak, Murnen, & Ruble, 2000; also see Taub & Blinde, 1994). In fact, body image dissatisfaction and eating disorders have become such a problem in female athletes, that there has been increasing concern in recent years over the female athlete triad (disordered eating, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis; Otis, Drinkwater, Johnson, Loucks, & Wilmore, 1997; Rippon, Nash, Myburgh, & Noakes, 1988; Roberts et al., 2003).

Clearly not all female athletes are dissatisfied with their bodies. Thus, it is important to examine factors that might influence the development of body image dissatisfaction in female athletes. Several studies have examined factors influencing the development of body image dissatisfaction and eating disorders in females, but few studies have examined these factors in adolescent female athletes. Thus, the present study will examine whether factors known to influence body image dissatisfaction in females will also influence body dissatisfaction in adolescent female athletes.

Physical Health Factors

Previous studies have found a connection between body image dissatisfaction and physical health (Kurtz & Hirt, 1970). In addition, research has shown a relationship between alcohol use and body image concerns (Granner, Black, & Abood, 2002; Striegel-Moore & Huydic, 1993), as well as disordered eating (Sawyer-Morse, 1998). There is also a relationship between body dissatisfaction and smoking (Granner et al., 2002; Rauste-Von Wright, 1989; Wiseman, Turco, Sunday, & Halmi, 1998). …

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