What Factors Affect Body Image in Teenage Girls?
Several factors affect body image in teenage girls in either a negative or a positive manner. The way in which female role models, including parents and caregivers, talk about themselves can affect how a young woman sees herself. A girl’s friends and peers also play a large role in her body image, as does how she is exposed to and interprets media images of other women. While many sports can positively affect body image in teenage girls, certain ones have the potential for a negative effect.
One of the primary factors that determines whether a young girl develops a healthy or poor body image is the self-esteem of the women whom she admires. A female parent or caregiver who constantly puts herself down and obsesses over her weight or her looks can inadvertently cause a young girl to feel the same way about herself. This can occur no matter how supportive the female parent or caregiver is towards the girl herself. A teenage girl who is exposed to women, especially a parent or caregiver, who are secure in themselves and emanate a positive self-image will likely adopt these same positive-thinking skills.
While body image in teenage girls begins with the exposure that a girl receives to healthy body images from women close to her, her friends and peers can also have an effect. A young girl who is confident enough to surround herself with supportive and loving friends will likely have a better body image than a young girl who is not. Excessive teasing in school or extracurricular activities by friends or peers can take a significant toll on a young woman’s body image. Although parents or caregivers cannot closely control these factors, discussing teasing or body image in general with a young woman who faces these daily challenges can help to reverse the negativity.
Media, whether television, movies, or magazines, is often touted as detrimental to body image in teenage girls. Constant exposure to women who seem perfect and repeatedly seeing the same body type in the media can cause a teenage girl to question whether or not she measures up to these supposed ideals. In many cases, this negative factor can be turned into a positive when a parent, caregiver, or role model discusses these images with the young girl. Some media outlets are also taking care to promote "real" body types in their advertisements as well, which can also have a positive impact to a girl's body image.
In most cases, sports can greatly improve a young woman’s body image. The physical fitness and sense of accomplishment that many young women experience when participating in sports can help her to see her body as a tool for enjoying life rather than simply something to look at. Despite this, some sports can have a negative impact on body image in teenage girls in certain situations. When an ideal body type is required for a certain sport that does not fit an individual woman’s natural body type, attempting to achieve the required figure can have negative effects on her body image.
@bythewell - I think the best thing a parent can do, though, is make sure they give their kids the best chance of having a healthy body image and also keep lines of communication open so that if anyone interferes with that image, the parent will know it.
I can even remember teachers shaming me when I was in primary school, for being too tall or too fat (even though I wasn't fat at all). And I've had people call out horrible things to me on the street. I remember one of my friends in high school telling me that she regularly had boys tell her that she was ugly.
I mean, almost every child is going to experience things like this and it will probably hurt. It's important to make sure they know that they have support and have nothing to be ashamed of, so that they can process that kind of despicable behavior properly.
@KoiwiGal - That is important, but I also think parents need to realize how important peer relationships can be. You might have the most stable, loving family background in the world and it could still crumble if you end up with a bunch of cruel friends.
Bullying among teenage girls can be so destructive and spiteful that it can lead to suicide or body dysmorphic disorder.
This article makes such an important point. I think a lot of women don't realize that they are modeling behavior for their daughters. They think that because they love their children and tell them all the time that they are beautiful or smart that it's OK to then turn around and talk about how they, themselves, aren't beautiful or aren't smart.
But kids will almost always do what you do rather than what you say and girls will soak up all that negativity and apply it to their own lives.
The best thing you can do for your children is try to be happy with yourself. Show them how to be a good human being by practicing what you preach.
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