Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Body Image among Secondary School Boys and Girls in South-West Nigeria: The Role of Neuroticism and Self-Esteem

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Body Image among Secondary School Boys and Girls in South-West Nigeria: The Role of Neuroticism and Self-Esteem

Article excerpt


Body image is a multidimensional construct related to perceptions, thoughts and feelings about the body and bodily experiences (Cash & Prunzinsky, 1990). Since the description of the concept, there have been a large number of studies investigating correlates of body image perception because its development is influenced by events affecting the body, relationships with others, and cultural norms (Jones, Fries & Danish, 2007).

Gender issues feature prominently among the factors discussed in body image research. Initially, research on body image focused on women and girls because problems related to body image perception and consciousness appear to be most pronounced in this population (McKinley, 1998). However, in recent times, scientific exploration has been extended to males. It has been documented that both men and women experience low body satisfaction, though women generally have lower body satisfaction than men (Algars et al., 2009; Frederick, Forbes, Grigorian & Jarcho, 2007; Knauss, Paxton & Alsaker, 2007). Also, males and females have varying dispositions to different aspects of their bodies for different reasons. For example, females tend to want to lose weight, whereas males tend to want to increase muscle mass (Petrie, Greenleaf & Martin, 2010).

Since body image is a concept woven around self, two critical self-related psychological constructs, neuroticism and self-esteem, are worth examining in connection with it. Neuroticism, which is a trait that determines emotional stability and even temperedness, has been identified to be related with body image perception by a growing body of research (Davis, Dionne & Lazarus, 1996; Swami et al., 2013). For example, women who reported higher scores on neuroticism trait had poorer appearance evaluation than others with lower scores (Kvalem, von Soest, Roald & Skolleborg, 2006; Swami, Hadji-Michael & Furnham, 2008). Similar findings have also been reported among men (Fawkner, 2012).

Self-esteem, which is defined as a favourable or unfavourable attitude toward the self (Rosenberg, 1965), is another factor thought to be important in the determination of body image ideals and attitudes. Considerable empirical evidence has also been garnered on the correlation between it and appearance evaluation in both adolescent boys and girls (Barker & Bornstein, 2010; Chen, Fox, Haase & Ku, 2010).

Statement of the problem

The ages between 10 and 19 years, which is referred to as the adolescence period, marks a period of biological, social and psychological transition between childhood and adulthood (WHO, 2013). The biological changes are characterized by acceleration of skeletal growth and an intense change in physiognomy. The physical appearance is altered and the consciousness of self-image is developed, and thus the overall notion of body-image becomes vital at this stage (Harter cited in Slater & Tiggemann, 2010).

Adolescence represents a crucial phase in development, and understanding body perception is among the issues of increasing concern to adolescents. The feminist theory hypothesizes that the female body is an object to be looked at (Spitzack, 1990), but it appears that this supposition may also apply to the male (Knauss, Paxton & Alasker, 2008; Slater & Tiggemann, 2010). The theory of objectifying the body recognises three components, which are body surveillance, body shame and appearance control beliefs (McKinley & Hyde, 1996). Body surveillance refers to the constant monitoring and gauging of the body, seeing self as others see it, to ensure that one conforms to the culturally acceptable standard of beauty. When a gap is perceived between the ideal and the real self, a sense of failure and negative attitude may develop, which body shame measures (McKinley & Hyde, 1996). The last component, appearance control belief, is the belief that one has the ability to control one's appearance to fit the socially acceptable norm (McKinley & Hyde, 1996). …

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