Body Image Concerns and Sociocultural Ideals

Body image concerns and preoccupation are significantly high in America compared to other industrialized countries. Weight concern in British women, for example, is not excessive and there is little evidence of idealization of dangerously low weights (Wardle & Johnson, 2002). Other findings suggest that American college students are much more likely to worry about the way they look and to spend more time obsessing over their bodies than German students (Bohne et al., 2002). Body image disturbance or dissatisfaction, generally consisting of a subjective unhappiness with some aspect of one's appearance, is extremely prevalent and may be associated with psychological distress (e.g., depression) and functional impairment (Thompson et al., 1999). Degree of body dissatisfaction is often measured as the discrepancy between one's self-perceived real and ideal body size (Showers & Larson, 1999). Furthermore, body dissatisfaction is an established risk factor in the development of eating disorders (Stice & Whitenton, 2002). This highlights the importance of understanding the key features in the development of body dissatisfaction.
The slender body type as a beauty standard for women is especially salient in the media, and several researchers have demonstrated how the female body depicted in the media has become increasingly thin (Garner et al., 1980; Wiseman et al., 1992). Recent research has explored the internalization of the thin ideal, transmitted through popular media and strengthened through social reinforcement, as a potential risk factor for the development of eating disorders and body image concerns (Cusumano & Thompson, 1997; Heinberg et al., 1995; Thompson & Stice, 2001). Thin-ideal internalization refers to the extent to which an individual cognitively "buys into" socially defined ideals of attractiveness and emerges in behaviors designed to produce an approximation of these ideals (Thompson et al., 1999). Spec…

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