Skip to main content

The Role of Self-objectification in Women’s Depression: A Test of Objectification Theory

Abstract

Objectification Theory (Fredrickson & Roberts, Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21:173–206, 1997) postulates that sexual objectification of women and girls in US culture contributes to women’s mental health problems indirectly through women’s internalization of objectifying experiences or self-objectification. The purpose of this study was to test the model proposed in Objectification Theory as it applies to depression in women. A path analysis revealed that self-objectification decreased with age and led to habitual body monitoring, which led to a reduced sense of flow, greater body shame, and greater appearance anxiety. Less flow, greater body shame, and greater appearance anxiety led to depression. No significant pathways were found for the theorized relationships between the self-objectification measures and internal awareness or between internal awareness and depression. In addition, we provide psychometric support for a newly created multiple-item Flow Scale to assess Csikszentmihalyi’s (Flow: The psychology of optimal experience, Harper, New York, 1990) description of the common characteristics of peak motivational states and optimal experience.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

References

  1. Beck, A. T., & Beck, R. W. (1972). Screening depressed patients in family practice: A rapid technique. Postgraduate Medicine, 52, 81–85.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Brown, L. S. (1994). Subversive dialogues. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Dion, K. L., Dion, K. K., & Keelan, J. P. (1990). Appearance anxiety as a dimension of social-evaluative anxiety: Exploring the ugly duckling syndrome. Contemporary Social Psychology, 14, 220–225.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Dugan, W., McDonald, M. V., Passik, S. D, Rosenfeld, B. D., Theobald, D., & Edgerton, S. (1998).Use of the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale in cancer patients: Feasibility as a screening tool. Psycho-Oncology, 7, 483–493.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Enns, C. Z. (2004). Feminist theories and feminist psychotherapies: Origins, themes, and diversity (2nd ed.). New York: Haworth.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Floyd, F. J., & Widman, K. F. (1995). Factor analysis in the development and refinement of clinical assessment instruments. Psychological Assessment, 7, 286–299.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Fredrickson, B. L., & Roberts, T. (1997). Objectification theory: Toward understanding women’s lived experiences and mental health risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 173–206.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Fredrickson, B. L., Roberts, T., Noll, S. M., Quinn, D. M., & Twenge, J. M. (1998). That swimsuit becomes you: Sex differences in self-objectification, restrained eating, and math performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 269–284.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Heppner, P. P., Kivlighan, D. M., & Wampold, B. E.(1999). Research design in counseling (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Kozeny, J. (1987). Psychometric properties of the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale. Activitas Nervosa Superior, 29, 279–284.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. McKinley, N. M., & Hyde, J. S. (1996). The Objectified Body Consciousness Scale: Development and validation. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 20, 181–215.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Miller, L. C., Murphy, R., & Buss, A. H. (1981). Consciousness of body: Private and public. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41, 397–406.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Miner-Rubino, K., Twenge, J. M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2002). Trait self-objectification in women: Affective and personality correlates. Journal of Research in Personality, 36, 147–172.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Morry, M. M., & Staska, S. L. (2001). Magazine exposure: Internalization, self-objectification, eating attitudes, and body satisfaction in male and female university students. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 33, 269–279.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Muehlenkamp, J. J., & Saris-Baglama, R. N. (2002). Self-objectification and its psychological outcomes for college women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 26, 371–379.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Noll, S. M. (1996). The relationship between sexual objectification and disordered eating: Correlational and experimental tests of body shame as a mediator. Doctoral dissertation, Duke University, Durham, NC.

  18. Noll, S. M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). A mediational model linking self-objectification, body shame, and disordered eating. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 22, 623–636.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Parker, J. D., Bagby, R. M., & Taylor, G. J. (1991). Alexithymia and depression: Overlapping constructs? Comprehensive Psychiatry, 32, 387–394.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Pedhazur, E. J. (1997). Multiple regression in behavioral research (3rd ed.). Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Powell, R. (2003). Psychometric properties of the Beck Depression Inventory and the Zung Self Rating Depression Scale in adults with mental retardation. Mental Retardation, 41(2), 88–95.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Slater, A., & Tiggemann, M. (2002). A test of Objectification Theory in adolescent girls. Sex Roles, 49, 343–347.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2001). Using multivariate statistics (4th ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Tiggemann, M., & Kuring, J. K. (2004). The role of body objectification in disordered eating and depressed mood. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 43, 299–311.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Tiggemann, M., & Lynch, J. E. (2001). Body image across the life span in adult women: The role of self-objectification. Developmental Psychology, 37, 243–253.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Tiggemann, M., & Slater, A. (2001). A test of objectification theory in former dancers and non-dancers. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 25, 57–64.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Tinsley, H. E. A., & Tinsley, D. J. (1987). Uses of factor analysis in counseling psychology research. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 34, 414–424.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Worell, J., & Remer, P. (2003). Feminist perspectives in therapy: Empowering diverse women (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Zung, W. W. K. (1986). Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale and Depression Status Inventory. In N. Sartorius & T. A. Ban (Eds.), Assessment of depression (pp. 221–231). Berlin Heidelberg New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgement

We thank Kathy Kufskie for her assistance with data collection.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dawn M. Szymanski.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Szymanski, D.M., Henning, S.L. The Role of Self-objectification in Women’s Depression: A Test of Objectification Theory. Sex Roles 56, 45–53 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-006-9147-3

Download citation

Keywords

  • Flow states
  • Peak motivational states
  • Body shame