9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN30 Youth and Generation

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 Gender and Embodiment Building II, Auditório B2.04

The relationship of self-esteem to body image evaluation in adolescent girls

Over last years, body image has become a major issue in our consumption society and has thus developed into an important theoretical and empirical subject. By living in a "visual" society, we build our body image in a reflexive way, through socialization and observation of others.

The concept of body image has evolved from psychological and sociological theories and comes to comprehend a mix of self-perceptions, ideas and feelings on the individual's physical attributes, thus connected to self-esteem and emotional stability. It may then be defined as the way in which the individual perceives his own body, as a unique object, dynamically constructed by social interactions, according to cultural patterns.

In adolescence, as a special stage of identity construction, body image plays a nuclear role. It is a stage of surprise and insecurity towards body transformations and one of the most difficult tasks for the teenager is to accept his physical self within an emergent identity. As such, it is at this moment that society's stereotypes and pressures can most influence the teenager's self-acceptance and self-evaluation, which is particularly true for girls. When social expectations contradict the adolescent?s self-perception, problems in self-esteem may arise - and self-esteem is the feeling about the self that will provide a coherent psychological basis to deal with social reality requests.

Bearing these questions in mind, the aim of our paper is to understand the relationship between self-esteem and body image evaluation in adolescent girls. Although some studies consider a relation between self-esteem and physical appearance, it is still not clear how and at what levels.

In order to explore this relationship, we make use of Rosenberg's self-esteem scale, self-ideal discrepancy model and body satisfaction subscale from Eating Disorders Inventory (EDI) to assess body image evaluation. We applied a self-administration survey by questionnaire to a sample of 625 adolescent girls in Sintra's public secondary schools.

The results point to medium and low levels of self-esteem and to related high levels of body dissatisfaction. In this relationship we also consider socio-demographic, BMI and social comparison factors.