Peer Influence on Adolescent Boys' Appearance Management Behaviors

Article excerpt

Appearance is defined as all observable aspects of a person (Damhorst, 2005). Appearance management behaviors encompass alterations to the body, such as clothing, personal grooming, and makeup (Roach-Higgins & Eicher, 1992). Individuals often alter their appearance in an attempt to achieve a look that society deems as ideal; while females are frequently concerned with body weight, males' issues of appearance management tend to center around masculinity (Jones & Crawford, 2005; Rudd & Lennon, 2000). Adolescent boys' appearance management may go beyond exercising and dieting; however, their specific behaviors in this area have been overlooked in the research literature.

Adolescent boys' heightened body consciousness can be attributed in part to numerous physical changes, which is compounded by an increased need for peer approval. Their body image is greatly influenced by social interactions and developmental changes (Jones & Crawford, 2005). Furthermore, achieving a desirable physical appearance oftentimes requires unhealthy and risk-taking behaviors. Serious quality-of-life concerns occur when their risk perceptions of these behaviors are compounded by peer group influence.

Adolescents make conscious decisions to protect their self-esteem and peer relations (Joseph, Larrick, Steele, & Nisbett, 1992; Maggs, Almeida, & Galambos, 1995). Such decisions may be made when they are believed to be rewarding even if they involved risk (Harter & Baumeister, 1993; Hartup, 1989) and perceived as generating positive outcomes (e.g., protecting peer relations; Maggs et al., 1995). Therefore, adolescent boys' degree of appearance management has far-reaching implications. Nevertheless, the types of appearance management behaviors chosen, how risky these behaviors are perceived, and the impact of peer influence--especially among adolescent boys--are not well documented in the literature.


According to Rudd and Lennon (2000), appearance management can be involved eating, substance abuse, and other appearance-related behaviors. They discovered that many female college students feel powerful in transforming their bodies into ideal forms, as long as they display appropriate dedication in achieving their goals. This transformation occurs through such methods as body building, dieting, exercising, plastic surgery, and substance use (Jones & Crawford, 2005; Kowalski, Mack, Crocker, Niefer, & Fleming, 2006).

Many females engage in unhealthy appearance management behaviors, such as tanning and excessive dieting and exercise (Rudd & Lennon, 2000), and although health risks are involved, they may continue these activities to make themselves attractive, especially when their behaviors are reinforced by others' compliments. In addition, many females receive support for these unhealthy behaviors by both adults and peers.

Peer Influence

Adolescents' peers are very influential in terms of socialization (Anderson & Meyer, 2000; Jones & Crawford, 2006). Peer influence begins early in life and increases with age (Anderson & Meyer; Dohnt & Tiggemann, 2006). In fact, peer influence accounts for much of adolescents' appearance management.

Appearance management behaviors are learned and now involve younger and younger generations (Dohnt & Tiggemann, 2006). Children begin learning appearance management behaviors from their peer groups. Adolescents who look for peer acceptance to guide their behaviors are at risk of body dissatisfaction (Jones, 2004) which may result in unhealthy appearance management.

Studies have shown that the peers to whom females compare themselves are often considered as more attractive, which compounds self-esteem and body satisfaction issues (Duckett et al., 1989; Rudd & Lennon, 2000). By exerting pressure to attain an ideal body size, peers may not only encourage unhealthy appearance management behaviors, but the development of body dissatisfaction and eating disorders (Field, Camargo, Barr Taylor, Berkey, Roberts, & Colditz, 2001). …


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