First of all, it is important to establish the age and sex of individuals who are mostly affected. The answer to the question of when the dissatisfaction with body image starts may help to determine factors that contribute to the development of the problem. According to studies, “preadolescent girls as young as eight imitate the discourse of older women, expressing body dissatisfaction and concern over weight gain” (Grogan, 2016, p. 118). That statement implies that young girls receive negative body perception from their grown-up family members and then take it to adulthood. However, despite the amount of research, there is a notable lack of studies on factors that influence the body image of boys. Nevertheless, it would be incorrect to say that they do not suffer from the same issue. The little amount of research means that further investigations are needed to understand how boys perceive their bodies and what aspects affect them during the process of body evaluation. Researchers indicated a variety of factors that have an impact on body image and cause struggles among young people. They include the influence of media, parents, and the public’s opinion.
There is no doubt that media is capable of pushing different beliefs and ideas onto people. In her book, Grogan (2016) indicates that “many theorists have looked to the media in their efforts to understand the social pressures on men and women to be a particular shape and size” (p. 94). The result of these studies is also demonstrated in the book, suggesting that by displaying actresses and models, the media creates a reference point (Grogan, 2016). When those ideals are compared to the bodies of ordinary women, it creates dissatisfaction and poor body esteem.
In order to estimate the effect of the media, Brown and Tiggeman (2016) have conducted a randomized trial. In this study, 138 female students were given different images from Instagram profiles of celebrities and then were asked to express their opinion on pictures. According to the results, “that exposure to celebrity and peer images increased negative mood and body dissatisfaction” (Brown & Tiggeman, 2016, p. 43). Furthermore, the effect of displeasure was enhanced by celebrity worship since famous people are considered to be the epitome of perfection. Such findings allow researchers to conclude that the portrayal of women in media can be harmful to body image.
As a family plays a significant role in the psychological development of a child, it can also influence his or her body perception. According to the survey by Coccia and Darling (2017), impact of parental indulgence can have both negative and positive effects. For example, in cases where families practiced healthy diet habits and provided support to children, young people did not experience issues with body perception. Whereas in families where children received criticism related to their weight or body shape, but no support in engaging with healthy habits, adolescents expressed constant body dissatisfaction.
Nevertheless, apart from the described above factors, the opinion of peers and significant others is also extremely powerful in that matter. The same study by Coccia and Darling (2017) states that young girls are influenced by the eating behaviors of their friends, which also damages their body image. However, the issue extends from the inner circle of family and friends to society as a whole. Holland and Tiggemann (2016) elaborate on the objectification theory, which states that the “female body is socially constructed as an object to be looked at and evaluated, primarily on the basis of appearance” (p. 101). In this case, women tend to see themselves as objects. For this reason, they evaluate their body based on its thinness or fatness, not based on their preference.
In conclusion, it would appear that there is good evidence that external factors influence body image. Media, family, and public opinion can have a significant impact on the idea of how a healthy body should look, therefore, motivating adolescents to engage in damaging behaviors. Thus, different ideals should be promoted in society to change the negative tendencies in body perception.
Brown, Z., & Tiggemann, M. (2016). Attractive celebrity and peer images on Instagram: Effect on women’s mood and body image. Body Image, 19, 37-43.
Coccia, C., & Darling, C. A. (2017). Indulgent parenting and life satisfaction of college students: Examination of eating, weight, and body image. Journal of Family Issues, 38(9), 1191-1214.
Grogan, S. (2016). Body image: Understanding body dissatisfaction in men, women and children. Taylor & Francis.
Holland, G., & Tiggemann, M. (2016). A systematic review of the impact of the use of social networking sites on body image and disordered eating outcomes. Body Image, 17, 100-110.