Media Effects Toward Adolescent’s Body Images

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Introduction

In the current days, the effect the media have on body images is immense. This effect has been felt mostly among women. The effect is even greater among adolescent females. There has been a presentation by the media of female images in the media emphasizing thinness. The images have been those of successful models. These models that are presented do have generally a slim figure. The female gender is far more prone as compared to the male gender regarding the body images that are presented by the media for the reason that there is a tendency for society to evaluate the female gender by the physical attractiveness instead of the abilities and achievement one has. More so, those women who have been affected by the body images that are presented, which have not been realistic, tend to be inhabited by a feeling of lower self-esteem and this, in turn, has brought in a high likelihood of these women to have a feeding disorder. The female adolescents are found to be the group that is most prone to the messages that promote thinness and this for the reason that this group of people is at a stage in their lives where they are looking for external information to come up with a self-identity

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The effects of media on adolescent’s body images

There is has been the constant presentation of images of those women who have been successful models in the media all over the world over time (Botta, 1999). These images include those of musicians and actresses among others. These women that are presented do have a generally slim figure. They have been presented in a commercial advertisement through such media as TV and magazines among other media forms. These images that are presented have brought in an impact both in a direct manner as well as in an indirect manner on body image disturbance by creating a thin ideal that is not realistic. According to Cash and Pruzinsky (1990), body image refers to the attitude of a person about his her body in terms of the shape of the body, its size, and the attractiveness this body presents. Based on researches that have been carried out, a general suggestion that has been given gives a close link between body image and body dissatisfaction as well as feeding disorder and mostly in the female gender. This is brought about majorly by the media and society.

Jung and Lennon (2003) observe that the female gender is far much more prone as compared to the male gender regarding the body images for the reason that there is a tendency for the society to evaluate the female gender by the physical attractiveness instead of the abilities and achievement one has. More so, those women who have been affected by the body images that are presented, which have not been realistic, tend to be inhabited by a feeling of lower self-esteem and this, in turn, has brought in a high likelihood of these women to have feeding disorder (Posavac, Posavac, Posavac, 1998). In the BBC News (2010) it was reported that the media makes a great contribution to the feeding disorder that is seen among adolescents. According to Botta (1999), several types of research that have been carried out have come up with a proposal that media images that consist of the promotion of thin-ideal might be the ones to blame for the normative dissatisfaction in the female gender regarding their weight. More so, when there is a perception among women which is inconsistent between their body and the normative standard of their attractiveness, they might turn out to have a concern that the weight they have may be unacceptable.

In addition, Botta (1999) from the study she carried out observed that the female adolescents are found to be the group that is most prone to the messages that promote thinness. This is for the reason that this group of people is at a stage in their lives where they are looking for external information to come up with self-identity. This observation is supported by Erickson (1950 in Papalia, Olds, and Feldman, 2009) where an observation is made that the adolescent group consists of people who are at a stage of identity confusion versus true identity. In this stage, the adolescents go out looking for that information that can enable them to build up a coherent sense of self and this includes the role these people are supposed to play in society. To come across the best form of identity, these people are engaging in learning by way of carrying out social comparisons with other people (Vaughan and Hogg, 2005). Adolescents seek to learn from other people about whom they have believed that they are superior to them and in this case, the people they seek to learn from are those that they see in magazines and on TV among other media forms of commercial advertisement. Following this move, they come up with a definition of the way their body and their appearance are supposed to be. They make a comparison between the way their bodies look and the way the bodies of the images they see in the media look and the result of this is body dissatisfaction. As they go on carrying out this comparison, the desire among them to be thin increases and they struggle to achieve this. This in turn increases the likelihood of them having hatred for their bodies and they start engaging in unhealthy habits. Botta (1999) points out that adolescents are in a stage where there is developing of cognitive abilities to carry out the processing of the information in which they tend to carry out the absorption of all the information which is offered by the media without engaging in a critical evaluation in the first place.

It tends to be instinctively reasonable that a large number of female adolescents may experience a threat from the attractiveness of the female media images. Since there is a narrow definition of the present-day media images of perfect female attractiveness and also there is an exaggeration of these images emphasizing thinness, contact with media images may make the difference between the perception of a woman of herself about her body weight and the standard weight which is acceptable by society to turn out to be outstanding. As Buss (1994) and Feingold (1990) point out, the social outcomes of women are dependent in a critical manner on the attractiveness they have. Therefore, a discrepancy that is perceived is highly likely to turn out to be so much threatening and possibly result in increased concern about body weight. In the same line, Gitter (2010) reports that Duane Hargreaves, the author of the article entitled “The effect of television commercials on mood and body dissatisfaction: The role of appearance-Schema Activity” pointed out in this article that adolescent girls who engaged in viewing commercials portraying females who modeled the thin ideal beauty that was unrealistic made these girls have a feeling of loss of confidence and develop anger towards their weight and the way they appear.

According to Botta (1999), there is persisting of constant stereotyped thin-ideal images in the media. According to the analysis that was carried out by Silverstein, Perdue, Peterson, and Kelly (1986) of TV shows, 33 in number and of 8 magazines in the course of a period of one year and the analysis of films that were presented between the year 1932 and 1980 as well as the analysis of fashion magazines presented between the year 1901 and 1932, made detection of a change in the direction of thinner ideal and putting much emphasis on thinness for the females. More so, an analysis was carried out by Wiseman, Gray, Mosimann, and Ahrens (1990) of many years of Miss America Pageants. From this analysis, they concluded that the ideal figure that is presented by the contestants of the Miss America Award is thin and it is even turning out to be thinner with time. However, as Botta (1999) points out, there is a need to obtain evidence that is more concrete to clearly show that the presence of the thin images as well as thin ideals affects those viewing them (Botta, 1999).

Slade (1994) points out that it has been argued by many researchers that the media have an impact on the idea of the adolescents of what an ideal body is and on their body image in a direct manner. However, Botta (1999) on her part argues that the amount of research that is there that facilitates testing of that theory is limited. According to Botta (1999), so far, the questions are still;

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What is the impact of these images? Do adolescents wrap images of the thin ideal around their bodies like a corset? Losing weight may not provide the relief they desire because the corset seems to grow tighter as they are thinner. If they can not can strings, can they at least loosen the fit? (Botta, 1999, Page 31).

Knowing regarding the way adolescents are likely to deal with media images offers some bearing. A suggestion is given by Faber, Brown, and McLeod (1979) of the way several stages of adolescence affect the use of television by adolescents for information about body image. They suggest that the impact the messages of the body images have on adolescents depends on the kind of needs and perceptions this group of people bring to the experience of viewing and the way they engage in processing the information they obtain from the viewing experience about the body image.

According to Derenne and Beresin (2006), “there is a significant dichotomy between society’s idealized rail-thin figure and the mastery of self-more typical American body. The reasons for this are more complex and likely involve the interplay of media pressure to be thin, family eating and exercise patterns, and a relative surplus of non-nutritious food” (Page 257). Restrictions based on the diet bring about perpetual self-deprivation, weight gain, and making the self-image to be worse.

Derenne and Beresin (2006) argue that, even if there are temptations to blame the media for embracing the standards of beauty that are unrealistic, it is very much complicated to get the truth. All through history, the overriding environment, and cultural standards have in most cases given shape to the way the public perceives the body of a female. However, in the current days, the culture is one of its kind in a way that the media, including TV, magazines, and the internet among others is a presence that is far much strong like it has never been before.

Conclusion

The effect the media have on body images is great. This effect is been felt to a great level among women and especially adolescent females. There is a close link between body image and body dissatisfaction as well as feeding disorder and mostly in the female gender. This is brought about majorly by the media and society. The female adolescents are found to be the group that is most prone to the messages that promote thinness and this is for the reason that this group of people is at a stage in their lives where they are looking for external information to come up with self-identity. This in turn has brought in negative effects especially bringing in poor eating habits and low self-esteem among this group of people. Parents have the responsibility to limit the exposure of their children to media such as TV and magazines. They are supposed to encourage healthy eating habits and also promote reasonable physical activity and also give confidence to their kids to take part in those activities that bring up the level of self-esteem. More so, engaging in finding high-quality and visible advertising campaigns that promote the healthy lifestyles may bring up the level of awareness.

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References

BBC News (2010), Media is fueling eating disorders, say psychiatrists.

Botta, A. R., (1999), Television images and adolescent girls’ body image disturbance. Journal of Communication, 49 (2), 22- 41.

Buss, D. M. (1994). The evolution of desire: Strategies of human mating. New York: Basic Books.

Cash, T. F., & Pruzinsky, T. (Eds.) (1990). Body images: Development, deviance and change. New York: Guilford.

Derenne, L. J., and Beresin, M. D., (2006), Body image, media and eating disorders. Academic Psychiatry, 30, 257 – 261.

Faber, R. J., Brown, J. D. and Mcleod, J. M., (1979), Coming of age in the global village: Television and adolescence. In E. Wartells (Ed), Children communicating: Media and development of thought, speech, and understanding pp. 215 -249. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Feingold, A. (1990). Gender differences in the effects of physical attractiveness on romantic attraction: A comparison across five research paradigms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 981-993.

Gitter, M., (2010). Unrealistic beauty standards affect men and women. Fourth Estate. Web.

Jung, J. and Lennon, S. J., (2003), Body image, appearance self-schema, and media images. Family and consumer sciences Research Journal, 22 (1), 27 – 51.

Papalia, D. E., Olds. S. W., and Feldman, R. D., (2009), Human development. McGraw-Hill Ryerson.

Posavac, H. D., Posavac, S. S., & Posavac, E. J. (1998). Exposure to media images of female attractiveness and concern with body weight among young women. Sex Rules, 38, 187-201.

Silverstein, B., Perdue, L., Peterson, B., & Kelly, E. (1986). The role of the mass media in promoting a thin standard of bodily attractiveness for women. Sex Rules, 14(9/10), 519–532.

Slade, P.D. (1994), What is Body Image?, Behavior Research and Therapy, 32, 497- 502.

Vaughan, G.M. & Hogg, M. A. (2005). Introduction into Social Psychology. (4th ed.) Harlow: Pearson Education.

Wiseman, C. V., Gray, J. J., Mosimann, J. E., & Ahrens, A. H. (1990). Cultural expectations of thinness in women: An update. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 11(1), 85–89.

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