Body Image in Adolescents and Its Relationship to Socio-Cultural Factors

By Dogan, Ozcan; Bayhan, Pinar et al. | Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri, June 2018 | Go to article overview

Body Image in Adolescents and Its Relationship to Socio-Cultural Factors


Dogan, Ozcan, Bayhan, Pinar, Yukselen, Arzu, Isitan, Sonnur, Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri


Adolescents are typically in quest of their identity and sexual role and their bodies are dialectically related to their quests. Their identities and roles are built and formed meticulously through life events, unknown and mysterious incidents, sexual maturation, and other indications of the transition to adolescence (Birroux, 1990 as cited in Ferron, 1997). Ferron (1997) argues that body image is cognitively related to muscle and kinaesthetic senses. Body image is significant, especially during adolescence and the development of relationships with other people (Cash & Pruzinsky, 2002).

Interest in body image in psychology and sociology emerged in 1920 through a study conducted by Paul Schilder. Schilder was the first researcher to conduct studies related to body image in the fields of psychology and sociology (Schilder, 1920 as cited in Grogan, 2008). Schilder (1950) defines body image as the "picture we form of our body in our mind". According to Evans, Roy, Geiger, Werner, and Burnett (2008), body image is naturally a multidimensional individual concept.

The exhibition of factors related to the concept of body image is important in comprehending the meaning of body image. In this context, personal habits during childhood and adolescence and healthy self-perception are affected by numerous environmental factors at both the macro and micro levels. Such factors also include social acclamations aimed at sound selections, opportunities for acquiring new habits, attitude and behaviour with regard to eating, and exercises patterned by parents, teachers, peers, and physical appearance (Evans, Roy, Geiger, Werner, & Burnett, 2008).

Gender is one of the factors considered influential in terms of adolescent body image. Similarities and differences can be seen in how adolescent boys and girls contemplate body image. The girls prefer a slimmer look compared to boys (McArthur, Holbert, & Pena, 2001). Moreover, adolescent girls are inclined to be more attractive in comparison to boys (Cash & Pruzinsky, 2002). Physical development and appearance are closely related to adolescents' emotions about themselves. From age 12-14, both girls and boys have to cope with the fastest and most important changes they will ever experience in relation to how their bodies will change over their lifetimes. Their bodies not only grow faster, but also are accompanied by changes in their general ratios (Adams, 1995).

It is observed that adolescent girls tend to compare themselves to the social media models as they get older and their awareness of socio-cultural attitudes increases. They also display the tendency to internalize slimness ideals, as is evident from declining body satisfaction and self-perception. Such decline in self-perception experienced as they grow older is partially correlated with their downward tendency in body satisfaction. The decline in body satisfaction is entirely correlated with increased awareness of socio-cultural attitudes pertaining to appearance and an increase in social comparison as they age (Clay, Vignoles, & Dittmar, 2005).

Media has a significant influence on both girls and boys during preadolescence and adolescence. Generally, girls express that they feel more pressure from the media in comparison to boys (Ata, Ludden, & Lally, 2007). Derenne and Beresin (2006) state that media disseminates misleading and unrealistic information regarding physical beauty. These authors also indicate that this situation is of a complex nature, and political structure and cultural values have been influential on women's bodies throughout the history. However, today's media (television, internet, films and printed materials) is considered to be creating the largest impact.

The number of studies in Turkey on adolescents' perception of their body image and physical appearance are limited (Aşçi, 2002; Aşçi, Gökmen, Tiryaki, & Aşçi, 1997; Cağlar, 2009; Canpolat, Orsel, Akdemir, & Ozbay, 2005; Cok, 1990; Göksan, 2007). …

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