The Body Perfect Ideal and Eating Regulation Goals: Investigating the Role of Adolescents’ Identity Styles

Abstract

Adolescents are exposed to images depicting the thin or muscular ideal almost on a daily basis. When the body perfect ideal is adopted, adolescents are at increased risk for developing unhealthy and disordered eating behaviors. The aim of the current 3-wave longitudinal study among adolescents (N = 418; 54 % girls) was to investigate whether different styles of identity exploration (i.e., information-oriented, normative, and diffuse-avoidant) are associated differentially with changes in adoption of the body perfect ideal, which, in turn, would relate to changes in appearance-focused and health-focused eating regulation. Results indicated that the information-oriented style predicted decreases and the normative style predicted increases in adoption of the body perfect ideal. In turn, adoption of the body perfect ideal predicted significant increases in appearance-focused eating regulation but not in health-focused eating regulation. A diffuse-avoidant style was unrelated to changes in adoption of the body perfect, yet directly predicted decreases in health-focused eating regulation. Theoretical and clinical implications of these findings are discussed.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Note: In line with this reasoning, the prospective paths from the normative-oriented style and information-oriented style at T1 to adoption of the body perfect ideal at T2 were significant in a SEM-model equal to the SEM model presented in the results.

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Author Contributions

J.V. coordinated the project, conceived of the study, coordinated the data collection, analyzed the data and drafted and finalized the manuscript. S.V.P. helped in the interpretation of the data and in drafting and finalizing the manuscript. M.V. helped in the data collection and in drafting and finalizing the manuscript. B.S. helped in drafting and finalizing the manuscript. L.B. helped in the interpretation of the data and in drafting and finalizing the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Joke Verstuyf.

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Verstuyf, J., Van Petegem, S., Vansteenkiste, M. et al. The Body Perfect Ideal and Eating Regulation Goals: Investigating the Role of Adolescents’ Identity Styles. J Youth Adolescence 43, 284–297 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-013-9949-x

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Keywords

  • Identity
  • Thin-ideal internalization
  • Body perfect
  • Eating regulation
  • Adolescence