Body Esteem and Education: How does Body Esteem Develop in Children and Young People and what can Schools do to Promote Positive Body Esteem?
Drage, Lucy Amelia
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Paper 1: Study one investigates the relationship between the ages of children and young people in years 5-9 and their levels of body esteem, perceived pressure from family, friends and the media, internalisation of societal standards of attractiveness and social comparison.169 participants aged 9-14 years completed four questionnaires: the Body Esteem Scale for Children, the Perceived Sociocultural Pressure Scale, the general internalisation subscale of the Sociocultural Attitudes Towards Appearance Scale-3 and the Physical Appearance Comparison Scale. Results indicated that relationships existed between the age of participants and their scores on these questionnaires, but only for girls. For girls, a significant negative correlation was found between age in months and scores on the Body Esteem Scale for Children, and a significant positive correlation was found between age in months and scores on the Perceived Sociocultural Pressure Scale, the general internalisation subscale of the Sociocultural Attitudes Towards Appearance Scale-3 and the Physical Appearance Comparison Scale. No relationship between age in months and scores on the questionnaires were found for boys. Boys also had significantly higher body esteem than girls and there were significant correlations between scores on the Perceived Sociocultural Pressure Scale, the general internalisation subscale of the Sociocultural Attitudes Towards Appearance Scale-3, the Physical Appearance Comparison Scale and the Body Esteem Scale for Children. Results are discussed with reference to the gender differences, as well as the role of pressure, internalisation and social comparison in the development of body esteem in children and young people. Paper 2: Study two has a positive psychology focus and is a qualitative study of children and young people with positive body esteem. 10 participants from the initial sample of 169 participants from study one with the highest levels of body esteem were selected for interview. The aim of the research was to discover what children with positive body esteem say about their own appearance, exercise, the influence of family, friends and school, and also about appearance ideals. Thematic analysis revealed that children and young people with positive body esteem have a sense of global satisfaction with their appearance but did not place great importance on appearance. Appearance was rarely discussed with significant others in their lives, although many participants described receiving compliments about their appearance. Where negative comments had been received, these were dismissed as jokes or not important. When asked about appearance ideals, the children and young people in the current study discussed controllable aspects of appearance such as clothes and hairstyles; however, they often rejected appearance ideals and instead defined beauty more widely. Finally, exercise and sport were an important part of these children and young people’s lives, with a number of participants competing at a high level. Findings are discussed with particular reference to previous work with Swedish adolescents by Frisén and Holmqvist (2010) and Holmqvist and Frisén (2012).
DEdPsy in Educational, Child and Community Psychology