Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 45, Issue 8, pp 1678–1695 | Cite as

Does Media Literacy Mitigate Risk for Reduced Body Satisfaction Following Exposure to Thin-Ideal Media?

  • Siân A. McLeanEmail author
  • Susan J. Paxton
  • Eleanor H. Wertheim
Empirical Research


Exposure to thin-ideal media can contribute to increased body dissatisfaction in adolescent girls. Understanding the factors that may prevent or exacerbate the negative effects of media exposure on body dissatisfaction is important to facilitate prevention of these problems. This study evaluated the effects of exposure to thin-ideal media images on body image in three instructional set experimental conditions: appearance comparison, peer norms, and control. An important aim was to examine baseline levels of media literacy as a protective factor and trait thin-ideal internalization and trait upward appearance comparison as risk factors. Early adolescent girls (N = 246) completed baseline measures and 1 week later viewed thin-ideal media images, before and after which they rated their state body satisfaction. Participants in the appearance comparison instruction but not peer norms instruction condition had significantly reduced body satisfaction. Media literacy, particularly high levels of critical thinking, mitigated the negative effects of trait thin-ideal internalization and trait upward appearance comparison on body satisfaction outcomes. These findings provide evidence for the role of media literacy as a protective factor against the negative effects on body satisfaction of exposure to thin-ideal media images, and also provide evidence to support the development and implementation of media literacy-based body image interventions.


Media literacy Thin-ideal internalization Appearance comparison Media Body satisfaction Moderators 



This study was funded by Australian Rotary Health. A PhD scholarship was awarded to the first author.

Author Contributions

SM conceived of the study, formulated its design, coordinated the conduct of the study including data collection, performed the statistical analysis and interpreted the data, and drafted the manuscript; SP participated in the design of the study, assisted in interpreting the data, and helped to draft the manuscript; EW participated in the design of the study, assisted in interpreting the data, and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This study was approved by the university human research ethics committee and all procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Psychology and Public HealthLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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