Predictors and Outcomes of Positive Body Image in Young Women and Adolescent Girls

Author: Rachel Andrew

Andrew, Rachel, 2015 Predictors and Outcomes of Positive Body Image in Young Women and Adolescent Girls, Flinders University, School of Psychology

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The body image field has experienced a recent shift in focus to include the examination of positive, as opposed to negative, aspects of body image. However, as yet little is known about what predicts positive body image, and what outcomes result from possessing positive body image. Thus, the first aim of the current thesis was to investigate factors that might lead to positive body image (operationalised as body appreciation) in young women and adolescent girls. The second aim was to examine potential beneficial outcomes of positive body image, especially in the health domain. These aims were addressed in a series of studies utilising correlational, experimental and longitudinal research designs.

The thesis consists of five papers (three published, one accepted for publication and one under review). The first two studies addressed potential predictors and health behaviour outcomes of body appreciation in young women. Study 1 showed that less appearance media and more non-appearance media consumption and self-compassion predicted lower engagement in appearance processing, which along with perceived body acceptance by others, predicted body appreciation. Study 2 showed that body appreciation predicted more engagement in sun protection and skin screening, and less weight-loss behaviour, over and above levels of body dissatisfaction.

Study 3 experimentally investigated whether body appreciation could protect against thin-ideal media induced body dissatisfaction. Results showed that body appreciation was protective, such that women with low body appreciation experienced an increase in body dissatisfaction as a result of exposure to thin-ideal images, while those with high body appreciation did not. This paper also identified and investigated some specific media protective strategies.

Studies 4 and 5 examined positive body image in adolescent girls. Study 4 confirmed cross-sectionally a modified acceptance model of intuitive eating. Perceived body acceptance by others was negatively related to both self-objectification and appearance comparison, both of which were negatively associated with body appreciation, which in turn was related to greater intuitive eating. Study 5 was a longitudinal follow-up, examining predictors and outcomes of body appreciation over a one-year time period. Findings supported a prospective modified acceptance model of intuitive eating, with body appreciation shown to be the strongest predictor of intuitive eating over one year. In addition, greater perceived body acceptance by others and less dieting was shown to prospectively predict body appreciation, and body appreciation prospectively predicted increased physical activity participation and decreased dieting, alcohol and cigarette use one year later.

Overall, the findings of the studies extend knowledge about factors predicting and stemming from positive body image. Accordingly, the results contribute to the theoretical and conceptual understanding of positive body image, as well as provide practical implications for interventions designed to enhance positive body image.

Keywords: positive body image, body appreciation, young women, adolescent girls, health behaviours, predictors, prospective study

Subject: Psychology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2015
School: School of Psychology
Supervisor: Prof Marika Tiggemann