Sex Roles, Vol. 53, Nos. 9/10, November 2005 (
Body Dissatisfaction, Dating, and Importance of
Thinness to Attractiveness in Adolescent Girls
Susan J. Paxton,
Eleanor H. Wertheim,
Sarah J. Durkin,
and Jenny Anderson
The primary aim of this study was to test a multivariate model of predictors of body dissat-
isfaction in adolescent girls in which psychological variables, beliefs about the importance of
popularity with boys, and beliefs about the importance of thinness to attractiveness and dat-
ing were included. We also aimed to explore boys’ perceptions of the importance of thinness
for attractiveness. Grade 10 girls (n = 573) and boys (n = 145) completed questionnaires.
Path analysis provided partial support for the model proposed. Dating did not predict body
dissatisfaction, but a relationship between importance of popularity with boys and body dis-
satisfaction was fully mediated by the belief that boys see thinness as important in rating
girls’ attractiveness. Although girls underestimated the body size that is attractive to boys,
over 85% of boys reported a girl’s slimness inﬂuenced her attractiveness. Dating was not
correlated with body mass index.
KEY WORDS: dating; thinness; body dissatisfaction; dieting; adolescent girls and boys.
Past research has identiﬁed the importance of
many sociocultural factors in the etiology of body
dissatisfaction and disordered eating, including in-
ternalization of the thin ideal body image; percep-
tions of the importance of attractiveness for so-
cial success; media, peer, and family pressures; and
weight and shape teasing (e.g., Groesz, Levine, &
Murnen, 2002; Keery, van den Berg, & Thompson,
2004; Thompson, Heinberg, Altabe, & Tantleff-
Dunn, 1999; Wertheim, Paxton, & Blaney, 2004).
One speciﬁc group of pressures that may inﬂuence
adolescent girls’ body image and eating behavior is
those related to the beginning of dating, an important
social activity that is typically ﬁrst experienced in the
teenage years. Although dating has been included as
a variable in past studies, there is a need for a deeper
examination of the relationships between body dis-
La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at School of Psy-
chological Science, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Melbourne,
Victoria 3086, Australia; e-mail: email@example.com.
satisfaction, eating behaviors, and potential pressures
associated with dating, such as the perception of the
importance of thinness to have a boyfriend and dat-
ing. In addition, there is a need to explore boys’ be-
liefs about the importance of thinness in determining
attractiveness and whether they would ask a girl out
on a date.
The majority of previous research on dating and
its relationship to body dissatisfaction and disordered
eating has centered on girls in their early teens and,
in particular, those who experienced synchronous on-
set of menarche and dating experiences (Cauffman &
Steinberg, 1996; Gralen, Levine, Smolak, & Murnen,
1990; Levine, Smolak, Moodey, Shuman, & Hessen,
1994; Smolak, Levine, & Gralen, 1993). In one study
(Smolak et al., 1993), girls who began dating and
menarche at the same time were found to have higher
body dissatisfaction and disordered eating scores
than those who had not begun both at the same
time. In another study of 12- to 13-year-old girls
(Cauffman & Steinberg, 1996), when age and menar-
chal status were controlled, girls who dated were sig-
niﬁcantly more likely to diet than those who did not.
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.