European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 24, Issue 8, pp 997–1010 | Cite as

The developmental effects of media-ideal internalization and self-objectification processes on adolescents’ negative body-feelings, dietary restraint, and binge eating

  • Antonios DakanalisEmail author
  • Giuseppe Carrà
  • Rachel Calogero
  • Roberta Fida
  • Massimo Clerici
  • Maria Assunta Zanetti
  • Giuseppe Riva
Original Contribution


Despite accumulated experimental evidence of the negative effects of exposure to media-idealized images, the degree to which body image, and eating related disturbances are caused by media portrayals of gendered beauty ideals remains controversial. On the basis of the most up-to-date meta-analysis of experimental studies indicating that media-idealized images have the most harmful and substantial impact on vulnerable individuals regardless of gender (i.e., “internalizers” and “self-objectifiers”), the current longitudinal study examined the direct and mediated links posited in objectification theory among media-ideal internalization, self-objectification, shame and anxiety surrounding the body and appearance, dietary restraint, and binge eating. Data collected from 685 adolescents aged between 14 and 15 at baseline (47 % males), who were interviewed and completed standardized measures annually over a 3-year period, were analyzed using a structural equation modeling approach. Results indicated that media-ideal internalization predicted later thinking and scrutinizing of one’s body from an external observer’s standpoint (or self-objectification), which then predicted later negative emotional experiences related to one’s body and appearance. In turn, these negative emotional experiences predicted subsequent dietary restraint and binge eating, and each of these core features of eating disorders influenced each other. Differences in the strength of these associations across gender were not observed, and all indirect effects were significant. The study provides valuable information about how the cultural values embodied by gendered beauty ideals negatively influence adolescents’ feelings, thoughts and behaviors regarding their own body, and on the complex processes involved in disordered eating. Practical implications are discussed.


Binge eating Media-ideal internalization Objectification Body image Adolescents 



This study was conducted as part of the Mind and Body Project at the University of Pavia (which involves a series of independent studies aiming at validating numerous body image measures, and examining prospectively the associations among body image and full-blown AXIS I disorders among both clinical and community samples [58]) and supported by a grant from the Onassis Foundation (O/RG 12410). Special appreciation is expressed to all participants and their parents.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest

Ethical standards

Informed consent was obtained from both the youngsters and their parents. The study was performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments, and the study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University of Pavia (ID No: 2228/009).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antonios Dakanalis
    • 1
    Email author
  • Giuseppe Carrà
    • 2
  • Rachel Calogero
    • 3
  • Roberta Fida
    • 4
  • Massimo Clerici
    • 5
  • Maria Assunta Zanetti
    • 1
  • Giuseppe Riva
    • 6
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of Brain and Behavioral SciencesUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly
  2. 2.Mental Health Sciences Unit, Faculty of Brain SciencesUniversity CollegeLondonUK
  3. 3.School of PsychologyUniversity of KentCanterburyUK
  4. 4.Department of PsychologySapienza University of RomeRomeItaly
  5. 5.Department of Neurosciences and Biomedical TechnologiesUniversity of Milano-Bicocca, Medical SchoolMonzaItaly
  6. 6.Department of PsychologyCatholic UniversityMilanItaly
  7. 7.Applied Technology for Neuro-Psychology LaboratoryIstituto Auxologico Italiano, IRCCSMilanItaly

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