Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Subjective Body Image Dimensions in Normal Female Population: Evolution through Adolescence and Early Adulthood

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Subjective Body Image Dimensions in Normal Female Population: Evolution through Adolescence and Early Adulthood

Article excerpt

Body image distortion in eating disordered has been one of the most debated characteristics of eating disorders (Cash & Deagle, 1997; Hsu & Sobkiewicz, 1991). Some authors find that overestimation of body size is a normal finding in the general population (Bergstrom et al, 2000; Dolce et al, 1987; Raich et al, 1992; Rand & Wright, 2000; Toro et al, 1989). Nevertheless, it is generally accepted that there is a greater body image distortion in anorexic patients than in the normal female population (Cash & Brown, 1989; GiIa et al, 1998; Probst et al, 1992), though researchers disagree about the specific disturbance underlying this disorder. Several authors have concluded that the body image disturbance in anorexic patients is not a "perception" disorder of a particular dimension, but a distortion which reflects patients' idea, internal image, cognitions or emotions related to their own body (Bowden et al, 1989; Cash & Deagle, 1997; Gardner & Moncrieff, 1988; Franzen et al, 1988). It seems that the distortions reflect, for instance, which parts of the body have cognitive and emotional importance for the patient, rather than a real alteration in the image of the body as a whole. These body estimation problems in anorexic patients and in the general population are probably related in some way to sociocultural pressures, and need to be studied with new approaches and from the perspectives obtained from previous research into the area. From this point of view it is important to know how normal female population at the ages which there is the greatest risk of an eating disorder perceive their body size, and how this perception changes through adolescence. Procedures to evaluate what is known as "body image distortion" have been widely discussed. Two main types of methods are used (Thompson, 1996). The first group includes methods that determine subjects' view of the size of specific parts of their body, or "body-site size estimation procedures". These methods offer only a partial approximation to body image and do not give a global idea either to the therapist or to the patient. The other main group consists of "whole-image adjustment procedures", methods that give the estimation of the body as a whole which is then adjusted by the subject (Collins, 1986; Gardner & Moncrieff, 1988; Probst et al, 1992; Touyz et al, 1985). Patients' estimations of specific parts of the body obviously provide important data because there may be many differences between sites, depending on which parts of the body particularly concern the patient. But the global silhouette is also a useful parameter because it allows subjects to be more realistic about the information they give, and offers clinicians an overall idea of the image that subjects have of themselves. GiIa et al (1998) developed a technique named the Subjective Body Dimensions Apparatus (SBDA) which permits simultaneous assessment of subjective dimensions of several parts of the body and produces a life-size complete silhouette of the subject. This technique combines the advantages of evaluating several parts of the body separately, and obtaining an overall idea of the silhouette; additionally patients can correct their answers considering the global image.

The aim of the present study is to evaluate the subjective dimensions of adolescent and young general population using the SBDA, in order to determine whether they overestimate certain parts of their bodies and also to identify any differences between age groups. Another objective is to obtain profile charts of reference to compare a range of clinical groups that may have body image disorders.

METHOD

Subjects

The subjects were 802 girls from the general population, students at nine different educational centers: primary and secondary schools, vocational training colleges or University, all of them in Barcelona or smaller cities in the vicinity. The ages ranged from 11 to 24 years.

Materials

The Subjective Body Dimensions Apparatus. …

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