Sex Roles

, Volume 48, Issue 1–2, pp 89–95 | Cite as

Brief Report: Self-Objectification and Esteem in Young Women: The Mediating Role of Reasons for Exercise

  • Peter Strelan
  • Sarah J. Mehaffey
  • Marika Tiggemann


In this study we investigated the interrelationships between self-objectification, reasons for exercise, body satisfaction, body esteem, and self-esteem. A questionnaire that assessed each of these constructs was completed by 104 female participants between the ages of 16 and 25 who exercised regularly at a fitness center. Self-objectification and appearance-related reasons for exercise were significantly negatively related to body satisfaction, body esteem, and self-esteem, and functional reasons for exercise were positively related to each of these outcome measures. Self-objectification also predicted the reasons women exercise. More important, reasons for exercise were found to mediate the relationships between self-objectification and body satisfaction, body esteem, and self-esteem. It was concluded that objectification theory can be extended usefully into the realm of exercise and that, among women who exercise, motivations for exercise account for the reduced body satisfaction and self-esteem for women high on self-objectification.

self-objectification esteem exercise 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bachman, J. G., & O'Malley, P. M. (1977). Self-esteem in young men: A longitudinal analysis of the impact of educational and occupational attainment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35, 365–380.Google Scholar
  2. Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological reserch: Conceptual, strategic and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1173–1182.Google Scholar
  3. Blackman, L., Hunter, G., Hilyer, J., & Harrison, P. (1988). The effects of dance team participation on female adolescent physical fitness and self-concept. Adolescence, 23, 437–448.Google Scholar
  4. Davis, C., & Cowles, M. (1991). Body image and exercise: A study of relationships and comparisons between physically active men and women. Sex Roles, 25, 33–40.Google Scholar
  5. Finkenberg, M. E., DiNucci, J. M., McCune, S. L., & McCune, E. D. (1993). Body esteem and enrolment in classes with different levels of physical activity. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 76, 783–792.Google Scholar
  6. Ford, H. J., Jr., Puckett, J. R., Blessing, D. L., & Tucker, L. A. (1989). Effects of selected physical activities on health-related fitness and psychological well-being. Psychological Reports, 64, 203–208.Google Scholar
  7. Fredrickson, B. L., & Roberts, T.-A. (1997). Objectification theory: Toward understanding women's lived experiences and mental health risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 207–226.Google Scholar
  8. Fredrickson, B. L., Roberts, T.-A., 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.Google Scholar
  9. Garner, D. M., Garfinkel, P. E., Schwartz, D., & Thompson, M. (1980). Cultural expectations of thinness in women. Psychological Reports, 47, 483–491.Google Scholar
  10. Holmbeck, G. N. (1997). Toward terminological, conceptual, and statistical clarity in the study of mediators and moderators: Examples from the child-clinical and paediatric psychology literatures. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 106, 117–125.Google Scholar
  11. McDonald, K., & Thompson, J. K. (1992). Eating disturbance, body image dissatisfaction, and reasons for exercising: Gender differences and correlational findings. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 11, 289–292.Google Scholar
  12. McKinley, N. M. (1998). Gender differences in undergraduates' body esteem: The mediating effect of objectified body consciousness and actual/ideal weight discrepancy. Sex Roles, 39, 113–123.Google Scholar
  13. McKinley, N. M. (1999). Women and objectified body conscientiousness: Mother's and daughters' body experience in cultural, developmental, and familial context. Developmental Psychology, 35, 760–769.Google Scholar
  14. McKinley, N. M., & Hyde, J. S. (1996). The Objectified Body Consciousness Scale: Development and validation. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 20, 181–215.Google Scholar
  15. Mendelson, B. K., Mendelson, M. J., & White, D. R. (2001). Body-Esteem Scale for Adolescents and Adults. Journal of Personality Assessment, 76, 90–106.Google Scholar
  16. 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.Google Scholar
  17. Plante, T. G., & Rodin, J. (1990). Physical fitness and enhanced psychological health. Current Psychology Research and Reviews, 9, 3–24.Google Scholar
  18. Plummer, O. K., & Koh., Y. O. (1987). Effect of "aerobics" on self-concepts of college women. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 65, 271–275.Google Scholar
  19. Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Secord, P. F., & Jourard, S. M., (1953). The appraisal of body-cathexis: Body-cathexis and the self. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 17, 343–347.Google Scholar
  21. Silberstein, L. R., Striegel-Moore, R. H., Timko, C., & Rodin, J. (1988). Behavioral and psychological implications of body dissatisfaction: Do men and women differ? Sex Roles, 19, 219–232.Google Scholar
  22. Slade, P. D., Dewey, M. E., Newton, T., & Brodie, D. A. (1990). Development and preliminary validation of the Body Satisfaction Scale (BSS). Psychology and Health, 4, 213–220.Google Scholar
  23. Smith, B. L., Handley, P., & Eldridge, D. A. (1998). Sex differences in exercise motivation and body-image satisfaction among college students. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 86, 723–732.Google Scholar
  24. Sobel, M. E. (1982). Asymptotic intervals for indirect effects in structural equations models. In S. Leinhart (Ed.), Sociological methodology (pp. 290–312). San Francisco: JosseyBass.Google Scholar
  25. Sonstroem, R. J., & Morgan, W. P. (1988). Exercise and self-esteem: Rationale and model. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 21, 329–336.Google Scholar
  26. Tiggemann, M., & Lynch, J. E. (2001). Body image across the lifespan in adult women: The role of self-objectification. Developmental Psychology, 37, 243–253.Google Scholar
  27. Tiggemann, M., & Slater, A. (2001). A test of objectification theory in former dancers and nondancers. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 25, 57–64.Google Scholar
  28. Tiggemann, M., & Williamson, S. (2000). The effect of exercise on body satisfaction and self-esteem as a function of gender and age. Sex Roles, 43, 119–127.Google Scholar
  29. Trujillo, E. (1982). The effect of weight training and running exercise intervention programs on the self-esteem of college women. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 14, 162–173.Google Scholar
  30. Wiseman, C. V., Gray, J. J., Mosimann, J. E., & Ahrens, A. H. (1992). Cultural expectations of thinness in women: An update. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 11, 85–89.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Strelan
    • 1
  • Sarah J. Mehaffey
    • 1
  • Marika Tiggemann
    • 1
  1. 1.Flinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

Personalised recommendations