Essay About Self-Perception

Gender Differences in Body Image Self-Perception 1 Gender Differences in Body Image Self-Perception Gender Differences in Body Image Self Perception and Related Disorders Over the Lifespan Eva McFarland 32645068 Murdoch University PSY286: Human Development Tutor: Cameron Williams 2 Gender Differences in Body Image Self-Perception Abstract Body dissatisfaction, characterised by the negative attitude towards ones’ body image, is often associated predominantly with young females, typically ranging from teenage to young adult years, however, research suggests that all genders and age ranges suffer from some form of negative body-image self-perception. This essay explores the gender differences in body image perception and dissatisfaction over the lifespan, as well as discussing the manner in which these negativities can often lead to the development of disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa, along with psychopathological conditions such as anxiety and depression. Gender Differences in Body Image Self-Perception and Related Disorders Over the Lifespan 3 Gender Differences in Body Image Self-Perception “Beauty” as defined dependent on socio-cultural and historic context, is a multidimensional construct that individuals have been concerning themselves with for thousands of years, however the concept of beauty has changed through-out the ages. During the Renaissance era, it was considered that women who were voluptuous, what would now be deemed overweight, were highly attractive and sexy, not just because it was a display of wealth. Furthermore, during the late 1800’s especially, it was considered the ideal that men were wide-waisted, with broad stocky legs.These ideologies fell away as society neared the 20th century however, and over time Western society has come to value a body image that is thinner, slimmer and smaller for women, and more muscular for men. The perception of ones’ body-image, as imposed by the postmodern society, play a part in related disorders such as social anxiety and depression, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, and the effects of negative body image self-perception are discussed in relation to both genders, throughout the lifespan. Body image self-perception is defined as a multidimensional attitudinal construction which can include, but is not limited to, “body-image evaluation, cognitive-behavioural investment, and affect” (Muth & Cash, 1997). Have you ever remarked upon how long a woman has taken to get ready to go out? According to Muth and Cash (1997), women spend more time invested in their image than men, which makes sense given that body importance and dissatisfaction with ones’ body remain constant through-out the stages of life (Webster & Tiggemann, 2003). While body dissatisfaction was shown to correlate to both a womans’ sense of self-esteem and self-worth from young to old age, the strength of the relationship did diminish over time (Webster & Tiggeman, 2003), with the importance of body weight, shape and appearance also gradually decreasing with age (Tiggeman, 2004). Women of all ages displayed a marked discrepancy between current and ideal body image, during early, mid and old adulthood (Peat, Peyerl & Muchlenkamp, 2008). Webster and Tiggeman theorised that 4 Gender Differences in Body Image Self-Perception with increased age comes the increasing perceptions of cognitive control, therefore it would make sense that as women age and their cognitive control increases, they are able to protect self-concept and self-esteem somewhat from the influence of their own body dissatisfaction, through the employment of cognitive strategies (Webster & Tiggeman, 2003). The media has had a substantial hand in influencing womens’ perception of the ‘ideal’ body image in comparison to their own (Grabe, Ward & Hyde, 2008), through the objectification and sexualisation of women, although it is also important to note sociocultural expectancies and pressure to conform. The representation of the ideal woman as overly and increasingly thin, has had a negative and detrimental effect on the manner in which women have come to view their own bodies over the lifespan (Grabe, Ward & Hyde, 2008), and can lead to body-image related depression, anxiety and eating disorders, especially amongst teens and young women (Thompson & Heinberg, 2002). While negative body image self-perceptions are predominantly associated more with the fairer gender, it would be remiss to suggest that males do not suffer from any body imagerelated anxieties over their life also. In recent years, postmodern Western society has seen a shift in the way men’s bodies are represented, resulting in an increasing sense of dissatisfaction amongst men as a direct result of their bodies and how they see themselves in comparison to others in society (Frith and Gleeson, 2004). Young men and teenage boys reported identifying an ideal body as muscular and lean, associating these aesthetics with health and fitness, as juxtaposed with the association of an overweight body shape with lack of self-control and a weakness of will, additionally employing discourses of blame (Grogan & Richards, 2002). Particularly the teens in this study also suggested peer pressure to be more lean and muscular, while the older teens and young men voiced opinions that achieving this ‘ideal’ body is directly linked with feelings of confidence and power within society (Grogan & Richards, 2002). In addition, contemporary college-age men were shown to 5 Gender Differences in Body Image Self-Perception display significant body dissatisfaction while also believing that they were not as muscular as they actually were, which rings déjà vu to the mindset of individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa (Roberto, Pope, Borowiecki III & Cohane, 2004). While male and female children displayed strong similarities in body dissatisfaction (mostly high satisfaction), adolescent boys were divided between wanting to gain and lose weight, with adult men displaying the urge to lose weight, which increased with age (McCabe & Ricciardelli, 2004). However, a further study of men across all age ranges, found that men are less negative when it comes to body image evaluation, spend less time invested in appearance and the maintenance of, and experience less body image dysphoria when compared to women (Muth & Cash, 1997). Furthermore, while the correlation between body weight and self-perceived image was a positive linear correlation for women, it was curvilinear for men, suggesting a less direct correlation (Muth & Cash, 1997). One of the causations for this focus on muscular but lean bodies can be pin-pointed not only as media-influenced, but also heavily influenced by movies and movie-stars. During the 1980’s with the release of movies such as The Terminator and Rambo, incredibly bulkedup celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone became ideals that men attempted to model themselves on. However, this overly muscular image gave way to a more toned muscular image, and actor Brad Pitt was said to have been a leading cause of this change. Men increasingly looked to recreate the Brad Pitt body that they saw as the ideal, and which they also witnessed women viewing as the ideal. However, it is the mass influence of media and celebrities that can cause social trends to become personal health and mentalhealth problems for the individual attempting to recreate these looks, and eating disorders and psychopathological disorders such as anxiety and depression have been linked to the social pressure to fit this mould. 6 Gender Differences in Body Image Self-Perception The self-perception of body image has been a catalyst for related disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa, depression and social anxiety, much of the literature has focused on the effects that teenage to young-adult women have felt, failing to really recognise the older generations, as well as the entire male gender in much of these findings. While the sensitive, formative minds of teenage and young women make them a soft target for bodyimage related problems, and they often outwardly display the associated symptoms, they are not the only ones who experience these problems. Late-onset eating disorders have in one study been estimated to affect 3.8% of 60-70 year old women, compared to the estimated 3% of young women who experience the same eating disorders (Peat, Peyerl & Muchlenkamp, 2008). While the grief of the recent loss of a loved one and depression, as well as youngeronset unresolved eating disorders do account for some of the eating disorders amongst the older populace, it is still alarming that many of these women are misdiagnosed or unrepresented almost entirely (Peat, Peyerl & Muchlenkamp, 2008). Furthermore, it has been suggested that while the prevalence rates for eating disorders are suggestibly similar between the genders, the potential correlational risk factors were homosexuality/bisexuality, substance abuse, and psychopathological disorders such as depression, anxiety and personality disorders (Carlat, Camargo & Herzog, 1997), and these findings warrant further research. In comparison to males without eating disorders, males with eating disorders displayed higher rates of psychiatric comorbidity and psychosocial morbidity, however it is difficult to identify which of these factors is cause or effect (Woodside, Garfinkel, Lin, Goering, Kaplan, Goldbloom & Kennedy, 2001). While it is widely accepted in postmodern Western society that being overweight or “voluptuous” actually comes with many related health and mental health risks, the extreme at the opposite end is also remarkably unhealthy and concerning. The influence of mass media, as well as sociocultural and historical norms and expectancies shape the manner in which 7 Gender Differences in Body Image Self-Perception both genders view the ideal body image, and their own body image, through-out the lifespan. The peer pressure felt by these individuals to conform to the ideal, regardless of their natural body shape and tendencies, has been observed as pushing individuals of both genders and all ages, to the point of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and anti-social behaviours, as well as eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa, including the display of some but not all of the associated symptoms, such as excessive laxative or diuretic use. Although it is true that not all individuals reach these extreme stages, it would be remiss to suggest that those individuals have not at some points in their lives felt the pressures to be thinner and slimmer if they want to be attractive, in the case of women, or more toned and muscular in the case of men. As such, a review of the literature concludes that negative body image self-perceptions are in no way characteristic only of the fairer gender, instead men and women of all ages experience these social pressures and negativity towards self at some point in their lives, to varying degrees, however much of these individuals are under- or misrepresented in the research. 8 Gender Differences in Body Image Self-Perception References Carlat, Camargo, & Herzog. (1997). Eating Disorders in Males: A Report on 135 Patients. American Journal of Psychiatry, 154, 1127-1132. Cash & Deagle III. (1997). The nature and extent of body-image disturbances in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa: A meta-analysis. The International Journal of Eating Disorders, 22(2), 107-126. doi:10.1002/(SIXI)1098-108X(199709)22:2<107::AIDEAT1>3.0.CO;2-J Frith & Gleeson. (2004). Clothing and Embodiment: Men managing body image and appearance. Psychology, 5(1), 40-48. doi:10.1037/1524-9220.5.1.40 Grabe, Ward, & Hyde. (2008). The role of the media in body image concerns among women: A meta-analysis of experimental and correlational studies. Psychology Bulletin, 134(3), 460-476. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.134.3.460 Grogan & Richards. (2002). Body Image: Focus Groups with Boys & Men. Men & Masculinities, 4(3), 219-232. doi:10.1177/1097184x02004003001 Leit, Pope, & Gray. (2000). Cultural Expectations of Muscularity in Men: The Evolution of Playgirl Centerfolds. 90-93. McCabe & Ricciardelli. (2004). Body image dissatisfaction among males across the lifespan: A review of past literature. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 56(6), 675-685. doi:10.1016/S0022-3999(03)00129-6 Muth & Cash. (1997). Body Image Attitudes: What Difference Does Gender Make? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 27(16), 1438-1452. doi:10.1111/j.15591816.1997.tb01607.x 9 Gender Differences in Body Image Self-Perception Oliviardia, Pope, Borowiecki III, & Cohane. (2004). Biceps and Body Image: The Relationship Between Muscularity and Self-Esteem, Depression, and Eating Disorder Symptoms. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 5(2), 112-120. doi:10.1037/15249220.5.2.112 Peat, Peyerl, & Muehlenkamp. (2008). Body Image and Eating Disorders in Older Adults: A Review. The Journal of General Psychology, 134(4), 343-358. doi:10.3200/GENP.135.4.343-358 Thompson & Heinberg. (1999). The Media's Influence on Body Image Disturbance and Eating Disorders: We've Reviled Them, Now Can We Rehabilitate Them? Journal of Social Issues, 55(2), 339-353. doi:10.1111/0022-4537.00119 Tiggemann. (2004). Body image across the adult life span: stability and change. Body Image, 1(1), 29-41. doi:10.1016/S1740-1445(03)00002-0 Tiggemann & Lynch. (2001). Body image across the life span in adult women: The role of self-objectifiation. Developmental Pscyhology, 37(2), 243-253. doi:10.1037/00121649.37.2 Webster & Tiggemann. (2003). The Relationship Between Womens' Body Satisfaction and Self-Image Across the Life Span: The Role of Cognitive Control. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 164(2), 241-252. doi:10.1080/0022132203959780 Woodside, Garfinkel, Lin, Goering, Kaplan, Goldbloom, & Kennedy. (2001). Comparisons of Men With Full or Partial Eating Disorders, Men Without Eating Disorders, and Women With Eating Disorders in the Community. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 158(4), 570-574. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.158.4.570 10 Gender Differences in Body Image Self-Perception 11

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