Sociocultural Influences On Body Image And Depression In Adolescent Girls -- By: Kara L. Kerr

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 24:2 (Spring 2010)
Article: Sociocultural Influences On Body Image And Depression In Adolescent Girls
Author: Kara L. Kerr


Sociocultural Influences On Body Image And Depression In Adolescent Girls

Kara L. Kerr

Kara L. Kerr is currently studying psychology, sociology, and women’s and gender studies at the University of Tulsa. In the future, she plans to study eating disorders while working toward a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

Many adolescent girls face psychological struggles. For example, eating disorders disproportionately affect adolescent girls compared to the rest of the population. Approximately 40 percent of anorexia nervosa cases occur in females ages fifteen to nineteen.1 The prevalence of this disorder is of special concern given that the mortality rate for anorexia nervosa is more than twelve times greater than the annual death rate due to all causes of death for girls ages fifteen to twenty-four years in the general population.2

Depression also disproportionately affects adolescent girls. Although boys tend to have higher rates of depression than girls during childhood, sometime in adolescence a switch occurs. Girls’ rates of depression during adolescence are twice as high as boys’, a trend that continues throughout adulthood.3 Importantly, depression is also a significant risk factor for suicide attempts.4 Bae et al. also found the rate of attempted suicide to be 17.1 percent for adolescent females as compared to 10.2 percent in adolescent males. Clearly, adolescence poses significant psychological hazards for females. These gender differences do not occur in a vacuum; they are largely the result of socio-cultural factors. The media and other cultural forces play an important role in body image and depression in adolescent girls.

Media Images Of Thinness

Negative body image in adolescent girls is of growing concern in modern Western societies. As girls go through puberty, their bodies gain adipose and move farther away from the thin ideal for women. One must only take a look at a fashion magazine to see how the current ideal body is often asexual and childlike. Such a medium influences these girls and often causes them to become dissatisfied with their appearance.

Experiments have demonstrated the detrimental effects media have on adolescent females’ body image. Clay, Vignoles, and Dittmar presented magazine images to young adolescent girls. Two groups viewed magazine covers with female models who were either underweight or a little below average weight, while a third group viewed covers with inanimate objects. The researchers found that viewing the magazines with the models resulted in decreased ...

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