Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Body Esteem and Appearance-Based Self-Worth: A Test of Religious Moderators in Men and Women

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Body Esteem and Appearance-Based Self-Worth: A Test of Religious Moderators in Men and Women

Article excerpt

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 (New Revised Standard Version)

Young adults face conflicting pressures about which domains in life to deem important. The passage above encourages believers to resist societal pressures and emphasize their faithful transformation and discernment. Conditions of self-worth (CSW), defined as personal beliefs about what one must be or do in order to derive a sense of self-worth, are associated with motivations, behaviors, thoughts, and emotions (Crocker & Wolfe, 2001; Overstreet & Quinn, 2012). Several studies have shown that basing self-worth on appearance or others' approval is related to poor body esteem (Inman, Snyder, & Peprah, 2016). Body esteem is defined as an evaluation of one's body or appearance (Mendelson, Mendelson, & White, 2001). Poor body esteem has been related to eating pathology, depression, and low self-esteem in women (Hargreaves & Tiggeman, 2003; Stice, Ng, & Shaw, 2010) and depression and low selfesteem in men (Olivardia, Pope, Borowiecki, & Cohane, 2004). Thus, it is important to identify factors that are related to body esteem for women and men.

Religiosity is multifaceted. It can include religious beliefs, emotions, and experiences (Hill & Pargament, 2003). Given that believers can vary in their belief that one is unconditionally loved by God, we examined two concepts that seemingly differ in one's endorsement of God's unconditional love: one of self-worth based on "when" God loves me (CSW; Crocker, Luhtanen, Cooper, & Bouvette, 2003) and one that expresses positive attitudes toward God (Wood et al., 2010). We proposed that appearancebased CSW would be negatively related to body esteem, whereas the two religious constructs would be positively related to body esteem. We also tested whether either religious construct weakened the negative relationship between appearance-based self-worth and body esteem in men and women after controlling for general positive and negative affect. Prior research has not tested for this moderation in women or men, nor has prior work compared religious attitudes that vary in perceptions of God's unconditional love.

Appearance-Based Self-Worth

Researchers know much more about women who base self-worth on appearance than about men who do so. Women who more strongly based self-worth on appearance or others' approval showed greater internalization of societal beauty standards (Vartanian, 2009), more frequent body surveillance (Inman et al., 2016; Overstreet & Quinn, 2012) and body comparisons (Inman et al., 2016), greater body dissatisfaction (overstreet & Quinn, 2012), and poorer body esteem (Inman et al., 2016). We chose to focus solely on appearance-based self-worth and its relation to body esteem in this study.

This is the first study to our knowledge to study men's appearance-based self-worth in relationship to body esteem, testing possible moderators. Although researchers found that appearance norms for women are more rigid and pervasive than norms for men (Buote et al., 2011), meta-analyses of correlational and experimental studies showed that boys and young men who saw unattainable media muscular images (or played with such toys) reported lower body esteem (Barlett, Vowels, & Saucier, 2008) compared to males who did not. The muscular ideal has become more pronounced and more prevalent over the past 30 years (Leit, Pope, & Gray, 2001; Pope, Olivardia, Borowiecki, & Cohane, 2001). Boys have internalized this body standard, with body dissatisfaction becoming more common in men and boys (Cohane & Pope, 2001; Hargreaves & Tiggeman, 2009). Research has shown that men's body dissatisfaction was related to eating pathology, obsessive exercise, steroid use, depression, and low self-esteem (Olivardia, 2002; Olivardia, Pope, Borowiecki, & Cohane, 2004; Smolak & Stein, 2010). …

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