Researchers from the University of Arizona have identified five factors that lead to a positive body image for women.
Shannon Snapp, Ph.D., and her colleagues said many women in contemporary Western cultures are dissatisfied with their bodies, setting them up for eating problems. This led researchers to examine factors that make women more resilient when it comes to their body image in an effort to help those at risk of eating disorders.
They focused on first-year college women who are likely to experience self-consciousness as they compare themselves with peers and become involved in social groups and organizations that place a high value on appearance.
The researchers had 301 freshman complete questionnaires based on the Choate theoretical model, which hypothesizes that family support and low levels of pressure to attain the thin ideal are related to the rejection of the “Superwoman ideal,” positive views of physical competence, and effective stress-busting strategies.
These factors are associated with well-being, which in turn is linked to positive body image in women, said the researchers, who found that young women with a lot of family support and low levels of perceived sociocultural pressure from family, friends and the media regarding the importance of achieving a “thin and beautiful” ideal had a more positive body image.
These same women also rejected the Superwoman ideal, had a positive physical self-concept, and were armed with skills to deal with stress, the researchers report.
The scientists offer several practical recommendations for prevention programs aimed at young women at risk of eating disorders, such as helping them to evaluate and become comfortable with the multiple and often contradictory expectations placed upon them in today’s society; teaching them to use effective coping skills; fostering a positive view of their physical competence through exercise and health; and promoting holistic well-being and balance in their lives.
“It is particularly important for women to develop a sense of self-worth that is not solely based on appearance, and to build resilience to pressures they may receive from family, friends and the media,” the researchers concluded in the study, which was published online in Springer’s journal Sex Roles.