, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 179-191
Date: 23 Mar 2006

Body Dissatisfaction and Physical Development Among Ethnic Minority Adolescents

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The present study examined the association between body dissatisfaction and adjustment, and the role physical development plays in this association, in an ethnically diverse sample of over 1100 urban, ninth grade boys and girls (M age = 14). More similarities than differences were found across ethnic groups: Caucasian, African American, Latino, Asian, and multiethnic boys reported similar areas of body dissatisfaction, levels of body dissatisfaction, and associations between body dissatisfaction and psychosocial maladjustment. For girls, only mean level differences were found with African American girls reporting lower levels of body dissatisfaction than girls from other ethnic backgrounds. Higher levels of body dissatisfaction predicted more psychological and social maladjustment for both boys and girls. For boys, faster development predicted stronger associations between feeling overweight and peer victimization. Feeling too small only predicted victimization if boys were actually low in physical development. For girls, physical development directly predicted less peer victimization, while perceived faster development predicted more victimization. Thus, it appears that physical development can protect both girls (directly) and boys (buffering against the negative effects of body dissatisfaction) from peer victimization, whereas perceived faster timing of development can exacerbate peer victimization.

Adrienne Nishina conducted this research as an NIH postdoctoral fellow in the UCLA Department of Education. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human and Community Development at UC Davis. She received her PhD in clinical psychology from UCLA. Her major research interests include mental health in schools, adolescent peer relations, and ethnic diversity.
Natalie Y. Ammon is a graduate student in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas, Austin. Her major research interests are at-risk youth and academic achievement.
Amy D. Bellmore is an American Psychological Association/Institute of Educational Sciences Postdoctoral Education Research Training fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles. She received her PhD in developmental psychology from the University of Connecticut. Her research interests include peer-directed aggression, ethnicity and ethnic contexts, and the development of interpersonal perception.
Sandra Graham is a Professor in the Department of Education at the University of California, Los Angeles. She received her PhD degree in educational psychology from UCLA. Her major research interests are the academic motivation and social behavior of ethnically diverse adolescents in urban schools.