Research on body image has neglected adolescents' ideals beyond thinness, particularly those of adolescent boys. Two studies are reported which examine a range of qualities in order to capture English adolescents' images of ideal bodies for same- and other-gender individuals. Study 1 used a qualitative approach, where 58 pupils aged 12–16 years discussed photograph arrays of “good-looking” media personalities of both genders and then chose descriptors for “ideal” women and men. Adolescents' preferences for qualities in either an “ideal woman” or an “ideal man,” and possible influences on those preferences, were assessed quantitatively in Study 2, which used a questionnaire with 458 pupils in the same age range. With few exceptions, all respondents were white Caucasian and roughly equally split between working-class and middle-class backgrounds. The main findings were that body-image ideals are multidimensional, show systematic gender differences, and become more conventional with age (closer to cultural ideals). Adolescents' own body mass is linked systematically to body-image preferences, but only with respect to the “ideal woman,” where heavier adolescents of both genders (higher BMI) distance themselves from conventional notions of female beauty.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 16, 2004
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