Study identifies 5 factors that promote a positive body image in women

May 9, 2012

Women with high family support and limited pressure to achieve the 'thin and beautiful' ideal have a more positive body image. That's according to a new study looking at five factors that may help young women to be more positive about their bodies, in the context of a society where discontent with appearance is common among women. The work by Dr. Shannon Snapp, from the University of Arizona in the US, and colleagues is published online in Springer's journal, Sex Roles.

Many women in contemporary Western cultures are dissatisfied with their bodies, a risk factor for eating problems. Snapp and team examined factors that make women more resilient when it comes to their , in a bid to help those women at risk of eating disorders. They focussed on young college women who are likely to experience self-consciousness as they compare themselves with peers and become involved in and organizations that place a high value on appearance.

A total of 301 first-year college women, from two universities in the US, completed questionnaires based on the Choate theoretical model. This model hypothesizes that family support and low levels of pressure to attain the thin ideal are related to the rejection of the superwoman ideal, positive views of physical competence, and effective stress-busting strategies. These factors are associated with well-being, which in turn is linked to positive body image in women. The researchers put this model to the test in a 'real life' situation.

They found that young women with high family support and low levels of perceived socio-cultural pressure from family, friends and the media regarding the importance of achieving a 'thin and beautiful' ideal had a more positive body image. These same women also rejected the superwoman ideal, had a positive physical self-concept, and were armed with skills to deal with stress.

Practical recommendations for aimed at young women at risk of eating disorders include helping women to evaluate and become comfortable with the multiple and often contradictory expectations placed upon them in today's society; teaching them to use effective coping skills; fostering a positive view of their physical competence through exercise and health; and promoting holistic well-being and balance in their lives.

The authors conclude: "It is particularly important for women to develop a sense of self-worth that is not solely based on appearance, and to build resilience to pressures they may receive from family, friends and the media."

Explore further: Body image not always a drag on women's wellbeing

More information: Snapp S et al (2012). A body image resilience model for first-year college women. Sex Roles; 10.1007/s11199-012-0163-1

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Serious research into what makes us laugh

November 24, 2015

More complex jokes tend to be funnier but only up to a point, Oxford researchers have found. Jokes that are too complicated tend to lose the audience.

Psychologists dispute continuum theory of sexual orientation

November 19, 2015

Washington State University researchers have established a categorical distinction between people who are heterosexual and those who are not. By analyzing the reported sexual behavior, identity and attraction of more than ...

Babies have logical reasoning before age one, study finds

November 18, 2015

Human infants are capable of deductive problem solving as early as 10 months of age, a new study by psychologists at Emory University and Bucknell finds. The journal Developmental Science is publishing the research, showing ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.