Sex Roles [sers] pp1156-sers-483671 April 2, 2004 16:19 Style ﬁle version June 3rd, 2002
Sex Roles, Vol. 50, Nos. 7/8, April 2004 (
Gender-Stereotyped Imagined Dates and Weight
Concerns in Sixth-Grade Girls
L. Kris Gowen,
and Chris Hayward
In the current study we used both quantitative and qualitative methods in a sample of sixth-
grade girls in order to investigate the relationship between girls’ concerns with weight and their
adherence to gender-stereotyped roles as assessed by their scripts for an imagined date. Girls
who had previous dating experience did not differ from those who did not in their adherence
to gender stereotypes of dating. As hypothesized, girls who endorsed a gender-stereotyped
perspective of dating in their scripts expressed signiﬁcantly greater concern with their weight
than did girls who endorsed a non-gender-stereotyped perspective of dating. The ﬁndings
highlight the inﬂuence of holding a stereotyped view of gender roles on dissatisfaction with
body weight during adolescence.
KEY WORDS: early adolescence; gender roles; weight concerns.
Socioculturally constructed prescriptions for
femininity and female sexuality deﬁne attractiveness
and desirability of a woman as contingent upon her
appearance and, especially, upon a thin body shape
and low body weight (Hesse-Biber, 1996). In Western
cultures, such standards for femininity are pervasively
reﬂected and reinforced through the mass media with
relentless images of idealized female physiques that
have become progressively leaner over the past few
decades (Botta, 1999; Groesz, Levine, & Murnen,
Given that the cultural ideal for female beauty
has implications for one’s attractiveness to the other
sex, girls often believe that success in heterosexual
dating is dependent upon their body shape. Studies
have documented a strong association between girls’
Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford,
Foundation for Accountability, Portland, Oregon.
School of Education, Stanford University, Stanford, California.
Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Stanford Univer-
sity, Stanford, California.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department
of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School
of Medicine, 401 Quarry Road, Room 1316, Stanford, California
94305-5722; e-mail: email@example.com.
interest in heterosocial popularity and their concern
with appearance and weight (Lieberman, Gauvin,
Bukowski, & White, 2001; Simmons & Blyth, 1987).
As adolescent girls mature, they become more aware
of their bodies in terms of sexual attractiveness and at-
tribute greater importance to their attractiveness than
do boys. Consequently, girls experience greater con-
cern about physical features that symbolize sexual at-
tractiveness than do boys (Davies & Furnham, 1986).
The importance of physical appearance appears
to be especially salient for early adolescents as het-
erosocial involvement forms. Younger adolescents
appear to have different reasons for dating than do
older adolescents; they give more weight to a poten-
tial dating partner’s superﬁcial features (e.g., looks,
fashionable clothing) and approval by others than do
older adolescents (Roscoe, Diana, & Brooks, 1987).
Maccoby (1998, p. 212) wrote that “Adolescent girls
are perfectly aware of the importance of physical at-
tractiveness in the eyes of the other sex, and many be-
come intensely preoccupied with their hairdos, their
complexions, their clothes, and especially with con-
trolling their weight.”
In addition, having a boyfriend, or even pursuing
a romantic interest, in middle school enhances girls’
popularity with peers. Girls consider being in love to
2004 Plenum Publishing Corporation