Self-Esteem and Body Image of Turkish Adolescent Girls

By Dorak, Ferudun | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, May 2011 | Go to article overview

Self-Esteem and Body Image of Turkish Adolescent Girls


Dorak, Ferudun, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


Adolescence is regarded as the transition period between childhood and adulthood, which lasts from approximately 12 to 18 years of age, including the periods immediately prior to, and after, puberty (Spear, 2000). This period is typically characterized by increased demands for coping with multiple social, biological, and psychological changes and the emergence of the cognitive foundations of adulthood (Ongen, 2006; Patterson & McCubbin, 1987).

In recent years, much public debate and scientific discourse have centered on the identification of effective methods for facilitating the development of self-esteem among adolescent girls. Girls and young women often report low levels of self-esteem, particularly during early adolescence (Kling, Hyde, Shower, & Buswell, 1999). Further, many girls experience a dramatic decrease in self-esteem upon entering early adolescence, although self-esteem levels tend to rise again as young women progress through this developmental stage (American Association of University Women, 1991; Eccles, Barber, Jozefowicz, Malenchuk, & Vida, 1999).

Researchers (Humphreys, 1998; Makikangas, Kinnunen, & Feldt, 2004) have found a positive relationship between self-esteem and perceived control, optimism, and self-enhancement. Humphreys describes individuals with high self-esteem as extroverted, optimistic, communicative, open to criticism, good at problem solving, and respectful of others' differences. In contrast, he describes individuals with low self-esteem as having low self-confidence, always criticizing themselves, being unable to have close and meaningful relationships, and as pessimistic, fatalistic, too perfectionistic, withdrawn, lonely, inflexible, indecisive, too sensitive to criticism, afraid of making a mistake, afraid of failure, and always suspicious of change.

Self-esteem is usually considered to be a key indicator of psychological health and social life adjustment. Its link with academic success and achievement has been emphasized in decades of theory and research (Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger, & Vohs, 2003), emotional well-being (Bandura, 1978; Benjet & Hernandez-Guzman, 2001; Harter, 1999; Martinez & Dukes, 1997) and social involvement and relationships (Baumeister et al., 2003; Benson, Karabenick, & Lerner, 1976; Hirsch & DuBois, 1991; Rosenberg, 1986).

Changes connected to rapid growth in the adolescent period affect body image. Body image is formed as a result of the physiological, psychological, and social changes that the adolescent experiences. Adolescents perceive their bodies according to both their outward appearances and the benefits for themselves. If the body provides the opportunity for reaching their goals, then they adjust to it. On the other hand, if they perceive that the benefits of the body are restricting, then they feel that they have been impeded. Both forms of perception make adolescents aware of their body image. Interest in outward appearance (clothing, hairstyle) is excessive during this period (Pektekin, 1996).

Body image has an important influence upon adolescent self-esteem (Abell & Richards, 1996; Harter, 1999; Mintz & Betz, 1986). However, for some young people, satisfaction with their physical appearance plays a critical role in this developmental process and becomes the central determinant of their sense of self. According to Zumpf and Harter (1989), these young people are at risk of developing socioemotional problems.

According to the report of The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (1997), sports and physical activity can provide adolescent girls with a positive body image, improved self-esteem, tangible experiences of competency and success, and increased self-confidence. Participating in sports can also have a positive impact on the mental health of girls. Sports and physical activity have been linked with a decreased likelihood of symptoms related to stress and depression (Phillips, 1998). …

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