Springer Nature is making Coronavirus research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Actual Reports and Perceptions of Body Image Concerns of Young Women and Their Friends

Abstract

The present study was conducted to examine the role of friends in women’s body image concerns. Self and peer reports were completed by a convenience sample of 75 pairs of same gender female friends (N = 150) from a small undergraduate university in Eastern Canada. In a conceptual replication of previous research, we first showed that self-reports of perceived pressure to be thin significantly predicted women’s own body image concerns when controlling for body mass. Of interest was the finding that body-related talk between friends that focused on exercise significantly predicted less body dissatisfaction. Additionally, by examining the relationships between self and peer reports, we showed that women’s perceptions of their friends’ body image concerns aligned to both self-reports and to friends’ actual reports suggesting that women likely projected their own self-views when perceiving friends. Moreover, using multiple regression analyses, we demonstrated that perceptions of friends, and not friends’ actual reports, predicted own body concerns. Besides the suggestions for future research stemming from limitations of the present study, we suggest that researchers interested in similarities between friends on women’s body image concerns include both perceptions of peers and actual peer reports.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Buote, V. M., Pancer, S. M., Pratt, M. W., Adams, G., Birnie-Lefcovitch, S., Polivy, J., & Wintre, M. G. (2007). The importance of friends: Friendship and adjustment among 1st-year university students. Journal of Adolescent Research, 22, 665–689. doi:10.1177/0743558407306344.

  2. Carey, R. N., Donaghue, N., & Broderick, P. (2011). ‘What you look like is such a big factor’: Girls’ own reflections about the appearance culture in an all-girls’ school. Feminism & Psychology, 21, 299–316. doi:10.1177/0959353510369893.

  3. Carlson Jones, D., Vigfusdottir, T. H., & Lee, Y. (2004). Body image and the appearance culture among adolescent girls and boys: An examination of friend conversations, peer criticism, appearance magazines, and the internalization of appearance ideals. Journal of Adolescent Research, 19, 323–339. doi:10.1177/0743558403258847.

  4. Clark, L., & Tiggemann, M. (2006). Appearance culture in nine- to 12-year-old girls: Media and peer influences on body dissatisfaction. Social Development, 15, 628–643. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9507.2006.00361.x.

  5. Dindia, K., & Allen, M. (1992). Sex differences in self-disclosure: A meta-analysis. PsychologicalBulletin, 112, 106–124. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.112.1.106.

  6. Dohnt, H., & Tiggemann, M. (2006). The contribution of peer and media influence to the development of body satisfaction and self-esteem in young girls: A prospective study. Developmental Psychology, 42, 929–936. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.42.5.929.

  7. Dunkley, T. L., Wertheim, E. H., & Paxton, S. J. (2001). Examination of a model of multiple sociocultural influences on adolescent girls’ body dissatisfaction and dietary restraint. Adolescence, 36, 265–279.

  8. Farquhar, J. C., & Wasylkiw, L. (2007). Media images of men: Trends and consequences of body conceptualization. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 8, 145–160. doi:10.1037/1524-9220.8.3.145.

  9. Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7, 117–140. doi:10.1177/001872675400700202.

  10. Franzoi, S. L. (1995). The body-as-object versus the body-as-process: Gender differences and gender considerations. Sex Roles, 33, 417–437. doi:10.1007/BF01954577.

  11. Grabe, S., Ward, L. M., & Hyde, J. S. (2008). The role of the media in body image concerns among women: A meta-analysis of experimental and correlational studies. Psychological Bulletin, 134, 460–476. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.134.3.460.

  12. Graverner, J. A., Haedt, A. A., Heatherton, T. F., & Keel, P. K. (2008). Gender and age differences in associations between peer dieting and drive for thinness. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 41, 57–63. doi:10.1002/eat.20458.

  13. Groesz, L. M., Levine, M. P., & Murnen, S. K. (2002). The effect of experimental presentation of thin media images on body satisfaction: A meta-analytic review. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 31, 1–16. doi:10.1002/eat.10005.

  14. Grogan, S. (2008). Body image: Understanding body dissatisfaction in men, women, and children. New York: Routledge.

  15. Hays, R. B., & Oxley, D. (1986). Social network development and functioning during a life transition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 305–313. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.50.2.305.

  16. Howell, D. C. (2002). Statistical methods for psychology (5th ed.). USA: Thomson Learning.

  17. Keery, H., van den Berg, P., & Thompson, J. K. (2004). An evaluation of the Tripartite Influence Model of body dissatisfaction and eating disturbance with adolescent girls. Body Image: An International Journal of Research, 1, 237–251. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2004.03.001.

  18. Levine, M. P., Smolak, L., & Hayden, H. (1994). The relation of socio-cultural factors to eating attitudes and behaviors among middle school girls. Journal of Early Adolescence, 14, 471–490. doi:10.1177/0272431694014004004.

  19. Levinger, G., & Breedlove, J. (1966). Interpersonal attraction and agreement: A study of marriage partners. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3, 367–372. doi:10.1037/h0023029.

  20. McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., & Cook, J. M. (2001). Birds of a feather: Homophily in social networks. Annual Review of Sociology, 27, 415–444. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.27.1.415.

  21. Montoya, R. M., Horton, R. S., & Kirchner, J. (2008). Is actual similarity necessary for attraction? A meta-analysis of actual and perceived similarity. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 25, 889–992. doi:10.1177/0265407508096700.

  22. Morry, M. M. (2003). Perceived locus of control and satisfaction in same-sex friendships. Personal Relationships, 10, 495–509. doi:10.1046/j.1475-6811.2003.00062.x.

  23. Morry, M. M. (2007). The attraction-similarity hypothesis among cross-sex friends: Relationship satisfaction, perceived similarities, and self-serving perceptions. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24, 117–138. doi:10.1177/0265407507072615.

  24. Morry, M. M., Kito, M., & Ortiz, L. (2011). The attraction-similarity model and dating couples: Projection, perceived similarity, and psychological benefits. Personal Relationships, 18, 125–143. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.2010.01293.x.

  25. Myers, R. (1990). Classical and modern regression with applications (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Duxbury.

  26. Neter, J., Wasserman, W., & Kutner, M. (1985). Applied linear statistical models (2nd ed.). Illinois: Richard Irwin, Inc.

  27. Paxton, S. J., Schutz, H. K., Wertheim, E. H., & Muir, S. L. (1999). Friendship clique and peer influences on body image concerns, dietary restraint, extreme weight-loss behaviours, and binge eating in adolescent girls. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 108, 255–266. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.108.2.255.

  28. Reas, D. L., Whisenhunt, B. L., Netemeyer, R., & Williamson, D. A. (2002). Development of the body checking questionnaire: A self-report measure of body checking behaviours. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 31, 324–333. doi:10.1002/eat.10012.

  29. See, Y. H. M., Petty, R. E., & Fabrigar, L. R. (2008). Affective and cognitive meta-bases of attitudes: Unique effects on information interest and persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 938–955. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.94.6.938.

  30. Shroff, H., & Thompson, J. K. (2006). The tripartite influence model of body image and eating disturbance: A replication with adolescent girls. Body Image: An International Journal of Research, 3, 17–23. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2005.10.004.

  31. Stice, E. (2001). A prospective test of the dual-pathway model of bulimic pathology: Mediating effects of dieting and negative affect. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 110, 124–135. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.110.1.124.

  32. Stice, E., & Agras, W. S. (1998). Predicting onset and cessation bulimic behaviors during adolescence: A longitudinal grouping analysis. Behavior Therapy, 29, 257–276. doi:10.1016/S0005-7894(98)80006-3.

  33. Stice, E., & Whitenton, K. (2002). Risk factors for body dissatisfaction in adolescent girls: A longitudinal investigation. Developmental Psychology, 38, 669–678. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.38.5.669.

  34. Stice, E., Presnell, K., & Spangler, D. (2002). Risk factors for binge eating onset in adolescent girls: A 2-year prospective investigation. Health Psychology, 21, 131–138. doi:10.1037/0278-6133.21.2.131.

  35. Swami, V., & Tovée, M. J. (2009). A comparison of actual-ideal weight discrepancy, body appreciation, and media influence between street-dancers and non-dancers. Body Image: An International Journal of Research, 6, 304–307. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2009.07.006.

  36. Swami, V., Salem, N., Furnham, A., & Tovée, M. J. (2008). Initial examination of the validity and reliability of the female photographic figure rating scale for body image assessment. Personality and Individual Differences, 44, 1752–1761. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2008.02.002.

  37. Swami, V., Frekerick, D. A., Aavik, T., Alcalay, L., Allik, J., Anderson, D., et al. (2010). The attractive female body weight and female body dissatisfaction in 26 countries across 10 world regions: Results of the international body project 1. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36, 309–325. doi:10.1177/0146167209359702.

  38. Swami, V., Taylor, R., & Carvalho, C. (2011). Body dissatisfaction assessed by the Photographic Figure Rating Scale is associated with sociocultural, personality, and media influences. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 52, 57–83. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9450.2010.00836.x.

  39. Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2013). Using multivariate statistics (6th ed.). Boston, USA: Pearson.

  40. Thompson, J. K. (2004). The (mis)measurement of body image: Ten strategies to improve assessment for applied and research purposes. Body Image, 1, 7–14. doi:10.1016/S1740-1445(03)00004-4.

  41. Thompson, J. K., Coovert, M. D., & Stormer, S. M. (1999). Body image, social comparison, and eating disturbance: A covariance structure modeling investigation. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 26, 43–51. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1098-108X(199907)26:1<43::AID-EAT6>3.0.CO;2-R.

  42. Trottier, K., Polivy, J., & Herman, C. P. (2007). Effects of exposure to thin and overweight peers: Evidence of social comparison in restrained and unrestrained eaters. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 26, 155–172. doi:10.1521/jscp.2007.26.2.155.

  43. Van den Berg, P., Thompson, J. K., Obremski-Brandon, K., & Coovert, M. (2002). The tripartite influence model of body image and eating disturbance: A covariance structure modeling investigation testing the mediational role of appearance comparison. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 53, 1007–1020.

  44. Woelders, L. C. S., Larsen, J. K., Scholte, R. H. J., Cillessen, A. H. N., & Engels, C. M. E. (2010). Friendship group influences on body dissatisfaction and dieting among adolescent girls: A prospective study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 47, 456–462. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.03.006.

  45. Zalta, A. K., & Keel, P. K. (2006). Peer influence on bulimic symptoms in college students. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 115, 185–189. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.115.1.185.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Louise Wasylkiw.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Wasylkiw, L., Williamson, M.E. Actual Reports and Perceptions of Body Image Concerns of Young Women and Their Friends. Sex Roles 68, 239–251 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-012-0227-2

Download citation

Keywords

  • Perceptions
  • Body image concerns
  • Friends