The amount of young men and women who are dissatisfied with their bodies and which have distorted body image is great in the contemporary America, as evidenced by the recent research, conducted by Mintz & Kashubeck in 1999. Those researchers claim that the negative body image leads to the development of various eating disorders, such as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia nervosa, and to excessive dieting and exercising that influences badly the health of the nation’s youth. The hypothesis exists that there are four key factors that influence the body image dissatisfaction in young adults and adolescents. Those are: self-esteem, family pressure, gender, and media influence. (Gleason, Alexander, & Somers, 2000; Heinberg & Thompson, 1995). In this paper we are going to explore the influence of the media factor on forming negative body image among children, adolescents and adults.
The scientists say that those are females who face the body image dissatisfaction. The research conducted by Muth & Cash in 1997 displayed that the undergraduate woman are dissatisfied with their body more frequently than the undergraduate man are, and that they invest in their looks more. The results of this research were that the image Dysphoria was more frequent among the undergraduate woman. Nevertheless, the research that was conducted by another group of scientists in the same period didn’t display any gender-related differences in the attitudes towards one’s body. (Wilcox, 1997). Thus in this research we will examine the mechanisms of TV programs influence on the body images of both females and males.
Liebert & Sprafkin state that the young adolescents and children spend 25% of their awake time on watching TV programs. This means that they spend nearly four hours in front of the TV screen. The amount of information young people get from watching movies and TV shows cannot be overestimated. The researchers add that TV has a potential for forming social values, and dictating them to the young viewers, and teach them on the stereotypes and behaviors existing in the society. (1988).
The pressure to have the bodies like the one’s displayed in the movies, shows, and advertisements that media puts on adolescent and youth leads to having negative feelings for one’s body among this group of viewers. A meta-analysis conducted by Groesz, Levine, & Murmen in 2002 revealed that after viewing the images of thin females the participants felt much worse about their bodies than after viewing the media images that were average or plus size.
There also was a research conducted that proved the key role of media in forming of the body image among college men and women. In 2001 Vartanian et al proved that it was the influence of the media that was the most significant predictor of overall body satisfaction among females who were getting college education. In addition the research showed that the media also impacts overall body dissatisfaction among men, though less than among females. The authors concluded that the influence of media on forming of the body image is growing both among man and women.
In the same time, Green and Pritchard proved by their research conducted in 2003 that while the media influences had significant impact of the female’s apprehension of their looks, men’s body image wasn’t formed by TV. It differs from the results Vartanian et al got, which said that man are influenced by the TV images of thin and slender people. This difference in results may be explained by the fact that while Vartanian at al chose college students as their research group, Green and Pritchard didn’t. The authors propose that male college students consume more TV than the adults who were the research group in the research conducted by Green and Pritchard do.
Hamilton and Waller (1993) found that when young woman with eating disorders watch fashion shows they tend to overestimate their body weight. Those researchers noted that the regular exposure to images of very thin women displayed in the media may provoke the development of illness in people who are predisposed to of Anorexia Nervosa, as the models displayed on the TV screens sometimes promote the means of reaching the unrealistic shapes they have, which are strict dieting and lots of exercising, the two things which may indicate the development of Anorexia.
The study conducted by Fouts and Burggraf in 1999 which analyzed the representation of various female body images and verbal reinforcement they got in situation comedies, found that below average weight women were overrepresented in this type of show, while the average built and above average weight females where underrepresented. The researchers concluded that the contemporary TV programs create a distorted body image among tweens and teens aged 10-16 who are the main audience for this type of shows. When a person has unrealistic view of the ideal body it sometimes becomes the basis for development of eating disorders.
For many females, the drive to get slender, the desire to have a body shape which is attractive, and the urge to begin dieting are directly connected to viewing TV shows, movies, and advertisements, and reading the men’s and women’s magazines, as proved by Levine, Smolak and Hayden in 1994.
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Liebert, R. M., & Sprafkin, J. (1988). The early window: Effects of television on children and youth (3rd ed.) Elmsford, NY: Pergamon Press.
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