Researching Young Women’s Bodies: Values, Dilemmas and Contradictions

  • Liz Frost


The contemporary emphasis in Western consumer societies on the visual display of perfected bodies seems to have a more damaging impact on some social groups than others. Concerns are being expressed at all levels from the Government ‘body summit’ initiative in 2001 to parent groups, that young women are at war with their bodies. There are fears that they starve them, punish them by over-exercising, have them professionally altered, and even cut and burn them in self-harming activities. Such is the level of social concern that at the extremes of such behaviour young women may be subject to psychiatric diagnosis and, sometimes compulsory, treatment. However for many young women engaging in similar activities, ‘weight watching’ and other forms of ‘making the best of yourself’ are socially endorsed behaviours. The research on which this chapter draws attempted to explore the ambivalent and, frequently, negative attitudes young women themselves develop towards their bodies. It also attempted to demonstrate that such ‘body-hatred’ was similarly experienced by young women labelled ‘ill’ and ‘ordinary’ young women in the community.


Young People Young Woman Eating Disorder Psychiatric Unit Adolescent Unit 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liz Frost

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