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Child & Adolescent Development: Overview

Review of "Adolescence and Body Image"

By Lina A Ricciardelli and Zali Yager
Routledge, 2015
Review by Hennie Weiss on May 10th 2016
Adolescence and Body Image

Adolescence and Body Image: From Development to Preventing Dissatisfaction by Lina A. Riccardelli and Zali Yager discusses how adolescence body image is impacted and shaped by many various factors, such as peers, culture, sports and media. The book draws on research across the globe to discuss how adolescence tends to view their bodies, and how their body image is impacted.

The book is an interesting read and the authors have been able to summarize data, findings and discussions into easy-to-understand facts, which makes the book ideal for the classroom, from high school to college. The information found in the book describes different ethnicities, addresses notions of body image based on culture, sexual orientation, sport, how biological factors influence body image, the role of media, peers, family and much more.

The book starts by describing what body image is and how boys and girls are affected in different ways; girls are more likely to focus on a slimmer body, while boys focus more on achieving a muscular body type. Then the authors discuss how body image is measured and assessed. Puberty is also noted to be a time of stress which increases body dissatisfaction for girls, as girls put on more weight and more body fat during puberty. Girls who go through puberty early are more likely to experience body dissatisfaction and a negative body image. For boys, the opposite is true. Early onset of puberty in boys is associated with lower levels of body dissatisfaction in comparison with a later onset of puberty. Media also has an impact on body image even though this correlation is not always direct. Girls spend more time on social media whereas boys spend more time playing videogames. Trends in media focus on slimmer women and muscular men, which emphasizes the notion that boys and girls should look a certain way. Those adolescents with a higher BMI (Body Mass Index) tend to be more dissatisfied with their bodies.

One of the factors closely related to body image is the notion of peer culture. More important than family is peer culture, which is especially strong around the ages of 10 to 14. Interestingly, when it comes to peers, gender does not moderate peer influence. The family is also a strong transmitter of sociocultural messages, even though it is not as strong as the influence of peers. Sports can have both a positive effect on body image, but it depends somewhat on what type of sport one is in. Sports that focus much on leanness and aesthetics are more clearly linked to disordered eating, even though the relationship is not always clear-cut. There are also individual factors among adolescence that contribute to body dissatisfaction, such as visible physical differences and psychological attributes -- the internalization of societal ideals and perfectionism. As such, the notion of body image is impacted by many factors that can contribute to either a positive or negative notion of ones body.

The final topic of the book is how schools and teachers can help support and promote positive body image. Teachers can help make changes in the school environment by working together with researches and creating concrete steps to promoting a healthy body image without recommending body image activities. The authors also discuss ways in which we as a society can promote positive body image, by labeling airbrushed images, banning underweight models and by focusing on risk factors that promote negative body image. They end by discussing ways in which we can understand body image by focusing on research associated with "everyday, meaningful experiences" (p. 221), as well as research that promote a positive body image, rather than focusing on negative body image.


© 2016 Hennie Weiss

Hennie Weiss has a Master's degree in Sociology from California State University, Sacramento. Her academic interests include women's studies, gender, sexuality and feminism.


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