The Internet and Adolescent Girls’ Weight Satisfaction and Drive for Thinness

Abstract

The primary aim of the study was to examine the relationship between media exposure and body image in adolescent girls, with a particular focus on the ‘new’ and as yet unstudied medium of the Internet. A sample of 156 Australian female high school students (mean age = 14.9 years) completed questionnaire measures of media consumption and body image. Internet appearance exposure and magazine reading, but not television exposure, were found to be correlated with greater internalization of thin ideals, appearance comparison, weight dissatisfaction, and drive for thinness. Regression analyses indicated that the effects of magazines and Internet exposure were mediated by internalization and appearance comparison. It was concluded that the Internet represents a powerful sociocultural influence on young women’s lives.

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

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

References

  1. Ata, R. N., Ludden, A. B., & Lally, M. M. (2007). The effects of gender and family, friend, and media influences on eating behaviors and body image during adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 36, 1024–1037. doi:10.1007/s10964-006-9159-x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Australian eGeneration Report (2007, September). Nielson//NetRatings.

  3. Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1173–1182. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.51.6.1173.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Borzekowski, D. L., Robinson, T. N., & Killen, J. D. (2000). Does the camera add 10 pounds? Media use, perceived importance of appearance, and weight concerns among teenage girls. The Journal of Adolescent Health, 26, 36–41. doi:10.1016/S1054-139X%2899y.2900044-0.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Clark, L., & Tiggemann, M. (2006). Appearance culture in 9 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Fouts, G., & Burggraf, K. (1999). Television situation comedies: Female body images and verbal reinforcements. Sex Roles, 40, 473–481. doi:10.1023/A:1018875711082.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Fouts, G., & Burggraf, K. (2000). Television situation comedies: Female weight, male negative comments, and audience reactions. Sex Roles, 42, 925–932. doi:10.1023/A:1007054618340.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Free TV Australia (2008, April 6-12). Weekly ratings report, Week 15. Free TV Australia.

  9. Garner, D. M. (1991). Eating disorders inventory-2: Professional manual. Odessa: Psychological Assessment Resources.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Garner, D. M., Olmsted, M. P., & Polivy, J. (1983). Development and validation of a multi-dimensional eating disorder inventory for anorexia nervosa and bulimia. The International Journal of Eating Disorders, 2, 15–34. doi:10.1002/1098-108X%28198321%292:2%3C15::AID-EAT2260020203%3E3.0.CO;2-6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Grabe, S., Ward, L. M., & Hyde, S. J. (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.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. Greenfield, P. M. (2004). Inadvertent exposure to pornography on the Internet: Implications of peer-to-peer file-sharing networks for child development and families. Applied Developmental Psychology, 25, 741–750. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2004.09.009.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Greenfield, P., & Yan, Z. (2006). Children, adolescents, and the internet: A new field of inquiry in developmental psychology. Developmental Psychology, 42, 391–394. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.42.3.391.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Gross, F. E. (2004). Adolescent internet use: What we expect, what teens report. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 25, 633–649. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2004.09.005.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Haines, J., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2006). Prevention of obesity and eating disorders: A consideration of shared risk factors. Health Education Research, 21, 770–782. doi:10.1093/her/cyl094.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Harrison, K. (2000). The body electric: Thin-ideal media and eating disorders in adolescents. The Journal of Communication, 50, 119–143. doi:10.1111/j.1460_2466.2000.tb02856.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Harter, S. (1993). Causes and consequences of low self-esteem in children and adolescents. In R. F. Baumeister (Ed.), Self-esteem: The puzzle of low self-regard (pp. 87–116). New York: Plenum.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (2008). Personal information of adolescents on the Internet: A quantitative content analysis of MySpace. Journal of Adolescence, 31, 125–146. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2007.05.004.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. HitWise (2008, April). Top 20 websites Australia: Australian internet usage—April. Retrieved from http://www.hitwise.com.au/datacenter/rankings.php

  20. Hofschire, L. J., & Greenberg, B. S. (2002). Media’s impact on adolescents’ body dissatisfaction. In J. D. Brown, J. R. Steele, & K. Walsh-Childers (Eds.), Sexual teens, sexual media: Investigating media’s influence on adolescent sexuality (pp. 125–152). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Jones, D. C. (2004). Body image among adolescent girls and boys: A longitudinal study. Developmental Psychology, 40, 823–835. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.40.5.823.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Jones, D. C., 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Katzmarzyk, P. T., & Davis, C. (2001). Thinness and body shape of Playboy centerfolds from 1978 to 1998. International Journal of Obesity, 25, 590–592.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Keery, H., Shroff, H., Thompson, J. K., Wertheim, E., & Smolak, L. (2004a). The Sociocultural Internalization of Appearance Questionnaire—Adolescents (SIAQ-A): psychometric analysis and normative data for three countries. Eating and Weight Disorders, 9, 56–61.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Keery, H., van den Berg, P., & Thompson, J. K. (2004b). An evaluation of the tripartite influence model of body dissatisfaction and eating disturbance with adolescent girls. Body Image, 1, 237–251. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2004.03.001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Kirkpatrick, D. (2007, September). As Facebook takes off, Myspace strikes back. Fortune Magazine. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2007/09/18/technology/myspace_strikes.fortune/index.htm

  27. Labre, M. P., & Walsh-Childers, K. (2003). Friendly advice? Beauty messages in Web sites of teen magazines. Mass Communication & Society, 6, 379–396. doi:10.1207/S15327825MCS0604-3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. La Ferle, C., Edwards, M. S., & Lee, W. N. (2000). Teen’s use of traditional media and the internet. Journal of Advertising Research, 40, 55–65.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Levine, M. P., & Murnen, S. K. (2009). “Everybody knows that mass media are/are not [pick one] a cause of eating disorders”: a critical review of evidence for a causal link between media, negative body image, and disordered eating in females. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 28, 9–42. doi:10.1521/jscp.2009.28.1.9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Levine, M. P., & Smolak, L. (2002). Body image development in adolescence. In T. F. Cash & T. Pruzinsky (Eds.), Body image: A handbook of theory, research and clinical practice (pp. 74–82). New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Malkin, A. R., Wornian, K., & Chrisler, J. C. (1999). Women and weight: Gendered messages on magazine covers. Sex Roles, 40, 647–655. doi:10.1023/A:1018848332464.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Manago, A. M., Graham, M. B., Greenfield, P. M., & Salimkhan, G. (2008). Self-presentation and gender on MySpace. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29, 446–458. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2008.07.001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. McCreary, D. R., & Sadava, S. W. (1999). Television viewing and self-perceived health, weight, and physical fitness: Evidence for the cultivation hypothesis. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 29, 2342–2361. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.1999.tb00114.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Mendelson, B. K., Mendelson, M. J., & White, D. R. (2001). Body-esteem scale for adolescents and adults. Journal of Personality Assessment, 76, 90–106. doi:10.1207/S15327752JPA7601_6.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  35. Nixon, H. (September, 2005). Cultural studies of young people and the media, new patterns of inclusion and exclusion. First Congress of the International Society for Cultural and Activity Research (ISCAR), Seville, Spain.

  36. O’Brien, K. S., Caputi, P., Minto, R., Peoples, G., Hooper, C., Kell, S., et al. (2009). Upward and downward physical comparisons: Development of scales and examination of predictive qualities. Body Image, 6, 201–206. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2009.03.003.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  37. Rideout, V. J., Foehr, U. G., & Roberts, D. F. (2010). Generation M 2 : Media in the lives of 8- to 18-year-olds. Menlo Park: Kaiser Family Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Rodin, J., Silberstein, L., & Striegel-Moore, R. (1984). Women and weight: A normative discontent. Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, 32, 267–307.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  39. Roy Morgan (2007). Roy Morgan Readership: January–December 2007. Retrieved from http://www.roymorgan.com.au

  40. Schoemaker, C., van Strien, T., & van der Staak, C. (1994). Validation of the eating disorder inventory in a nonclinical population using transformed and untransformed scores. The International Journal of Eating Disorders, 15, 387–393.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. Shoebridge, N. (2008, May 5). Youth ‘cannot live without the internet’. Australian Financial Review, p. 48.

  42. Shroff, H., & Thompson, J. K. (2006). The tripartite influence model of body image and eating disturbance: A replication with adolescent girls. Body Image, 2, 17–23. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2005.10.004.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Sommers-Flanagan, R., Sommers-Flanagan, J., & Davis, B. (1993). What’s happening on music television? A gender role content analysis. Sex Roles, 28, 745–753. doi:10.1007/BF00289991.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Steele, J. R., & Brown, J. D. (1995). Adolescent room culture: Studying media in the context of everyday life. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 24, 551–575. doi:10.1007/BF01537056.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Stice, E. (1994). Review of the evidence for a sociocultural model of bulimia nervosa and an exploration of the mechanisms of action. Clinical Psychology Review, 14, 633–661. doi:10.1016/0272-7358%2894%2990002-7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Stice, E. (2002). Risk and maintenance factors for eating pathology: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 825–848. doi:10.1037//0033-2909.128.5.825.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  47. Stice, E., Schupak-Neuberg, E., Shaw, H. E., & Stein, R. I. (1994). Relation of media exposure to eating disorder symptomatology: An examination of mediating mechanisms. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 103, 836–840. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.1034.836.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  48. Subrahmanyam, K., & Greenfield, P. M. (2008). Virtual worlds in development: Implications of social networking sites. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29, 417–419. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2008.07.004.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Subrahmanyam, K., & Lin, G. (2007). Adolescents on the net: Internet use and well-being. Adolescence, 42, 659–677.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  50. Swami, V., Frederick, D. A., Aavik, T., 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 i. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36, 309–325. doi:10.1177/0146167209359702.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  51. Thompson, J. K., Heinberg, L. J., & Tantleff, S. (1991). The Physical Appearance Comparison Scale (PACS). The Behavior Therapist, 14, 174.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Thompson, J. K., Heinberg, L. J., Altabe, M., & Tantleff-Dunn, S. (1999). Exacting beauty: Theory, assessment, and treatment of body image disturbance. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Thomsen, S. R., Weber, M. M., & Brown, B. L. (2002). The relationship between reading beauty and fashion magazines and the use of pathogenic dieting methods among adolescent females. Adolescence, 37, 1–18.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  54. Tiggemann, M. (2002). Media influences on body image development. In T. F. Cash & T. Pruzinsky (Eds.), Body image: A handbook of theory, research, and clinical practice (pp. 91–98). New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Tiggemann, M. (2003). Media exposure, body dissatisfaction and disordered eating: Television and magazines are not the same! European Eating Disorders Review, 11, 418–430. doi:10.1002/erv.502.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Tiggemann, M. (2005). Television and adolescent body image: The role of program content and viewing motivation. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 24, 193–213. doi:10.1521/jscp.24.3.361.65623.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Tiggemann, M., & Pickering, A. S. (1996). Role of television in adolescent women’s body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness. The International Journal of Eating Disorders, 20, 199–203. doi:10.1002/%2851C1%291098-108X%28199609%2920:2%3C199::AID-EAT11%3E3.0.CO;2-Z.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  58. Tiggemann, M., & Slater, A. (2004). Thin ideals in music television: A source of social comparison and body dissatisfaction. The International Journal of Eating Disorders, 35, 48–58. doi:10.1002/eat.10214.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  59. Touyz, S. W., & Beumont, P. J. V. (1985). Eating disorders: Prevalence and treatment. Sydney: William and Wilkins/Adis.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Valkenburg, P. M., & Peter, J. (2009). Social consequences of the Internet for adolescents. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 1–5. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8721.2009.01595.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. 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. doi:10.1016/50022-3999%2802%2900499-3.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  62. Van den Bulck, J. (2000). Is television bad for your health? Behavior and body image of the adolescent “coach potato”. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 29, 273–288. doi:10.1023/A:1005102523848.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Wiseman, C. V., Gray, J. J., Mosimann, J. E., & Ahrens, A. H. (1992). Cultural expectations of thinness in women: An update. The International Journal of Eating Disorders, 11, 85–89. doi:10.1002/1098-108X%28199201%2911:1%3C85::AID-EAT2260110112%3E3.0.CO;2-T.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgement

This research was partially funding by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project Grant (No: DP0986623) awarded to M. Tiggemann.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Marika Tiggemann.

Appendix

Appendix

Specific magazines, television shows, and Internet websites surveyed

Magazines Television shows Internet websites
Cosmopolitan Gladiators YouTube
Cleo Bondi Rescue Yahoo
Dolly So You Think You Can Dance Myspace
Girlfriend Home and Away Facebook
Shop til you drop Underbelly Cosmopolitan
New Weekly The Biggest Loser Photobucket
Famous Getaway Dolly
OK! Grey’s Anatomy Google
Woman’s Day How I Met Your Mother Ebay
TV Hits Desperate Housewives NineMSN
Madison Big Brother Bebo
New Idea Friends  
Who Video Hits  
Vogue Rage  
In Style   
New Woman   

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Tiggemann, M., Miller, J. The Internet and Adolescent Girls’ Weight Satisfaction and Drive for Thinness. Sex Roles 63, 79–90 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-010-9789-z

Download citation

Keywords

  • Internet exposure
  • Body image
  • Internalization of thin ideals
  • Tripartite influence model
  • Media exposure
  • Adolescents