Body-focused Anxiety in Women: Associations with Internalization of the Thin-ideal, Dieting Frequency, Body Mass Index and Media Effects
Aileen Pidgeon, Rachel A. Harker
Bond University, Australia.
DOI: 10.4236/ojmp.2013.24B004   PDF    HTML     6,133 Downloads   10,491 Views   Citations


Exposure to media that portrays thin women as ideal and attractive can lead to women internalizing the thin ideal, which results in incorporating societal standards of thinness into belief systems. Internalization of the thin-ideal is associated with numerous detrimental effects on women, including decreased levels of self-esteem and increased levels of body-focused anxiety, negative emotions and disordered eating. The present study utilized a sample of women (N = 208) aged between 18 and 67 years (M = 29.44, SD = 13.08) to examine the relationship between internalization of the thin- ideal, body-focused anxiety, body mass index (BMI), and dieting frequency. Correlational, regression and mediation analyses conducted on the data showed that internalization of the thin-ideal, BMI and dieting frequency significantly contributed to body-focused anxiety in women. In addition, body-focused anxiety fully mediated the relationship between internalization of the thin-ideal and dieting frequency among women. BMI did not moderate the relationship between internalization of the thin-ideal and body-focused, indicating that women who internalize the thin-ideal are less vulnerable to dieting unless experiencing body-focused anxiety. The results of the current study enhance our understanding of the relationship between internalization of the thin-ideal, body-focused anxiety, BMI, and dieting frequency among women. Clinical implications will be discussed.

Share and Cite:

A. Pidgeon and R. A. Harker, "Body-focused Anxiety in Women: Associations with Internalization of the Thin-ideal, Dieting Frequency, Body Mass Index and Media Effects," Open Journal of Medical Psychology, Vol. 2 No. 4B, 2013, pp. 17-24. doi: 10.4236/ojmp.2013.24B004.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] M. Tiggemann, “Body Image across the Adult Life Span: Stability and Change,” Body Image, Vol. 1, 2004, pp. 29-41. doi:10.1016/S1740-1445(03)00002-0
[2] L. J. Heinberg, J. K. Thompson and S. Stormer, “Development and Validation of the Sociocultural Attitudes towards Appearance Questionnaire,” Journal of Eating Disorders, Vol. 17, 1995, pp. 81-89. doi:10.1002/1098-108X(199501)17:1<81::AID-EAT2260170111>3.0.CO;2-Y
[3] S. Grabe, L. M. Ward and J. S. Hyde, “The Role of the Media in Body Image Concerns among Women: A meta-analysis of Experimental and Correlational Studies,” Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 134, 2008, pp. 460-476. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.134.3.460
[4] J. K. Thompson and E. Stice, “Thin-ideal Internalization: Mounting Evidence for a New Risk Factor for Body-image Disturbance and Eating Pathology,” Current Directions in Psychological Science, Vol. 10, 2001, pp. 181-183. doi:10.1111/1467-8721.00144
[5] J. K. Thompson, P. van den Berg, M. Roehrig, A. S. Guarda and L. J. Heinberg, “The Sociocultural Attitudes towards Appearance Scale-3 (SATAQ-3): Development and Validation,” International Journal of Eating Disorders, Vol. 35, 2004, pp. 293-304. doi:10.1002/eat.10257
[6] J. Rodin, L. Silberstein and R. Striegel-Moore, “Women and Weight: A Normative Discontent,” In: Sonderegger, T.B., Ed., Nebraska symposium on motivation: Vol. 32. Psychology and gender, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1984, pp. 267-307.
[7] S. Grogan, “Body image: Understanding Body Dissatisfaction in Men, Women, and Children (2nd Ed.),” Routledge, London, 2008.
[8] T.A. Myers and J. H. Crowther, “Sociocultural Pressures, Thin-ideal Internalization, Self-objectification, and Body Dissatisfaction: Could Feminist Beliefs be a Moderating Factor?” Body Image, Vol. 4, 2007, pp. 296-208. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2007.04.001
[9] L. M. Irving, J. DuPen and S. Berel, “A Media Literacy Program for High School Females,” Eating Disorders, Vol. 6, 1998, pp.119-131. doi:10.1080/10640269808251248
[10] E. Stice, “A Prospective Test of the Dual Pathway Model of Bulimic Pathology: Mediating Effects of Dieting and Negative Affect,” Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol. 110, 2001, pp.124-135. doi:10.1037//0021-843X.110.1.124
[11] K. Harrison, “The Body Electric: Thin-ideal Media and Eating Disorders in Adolescents,” Journal of Communication, Vol. 50, 2000, pp. 119-143. doi:10.1093/joc/50.3.119
[12] J. Kilbourne, “Can’t Buy My Love,” Simon &Schuste, New York, 1999.
[13] P. G. Krones, E. Stice, C. Batres and K. Orjada, “In Vivo Social Comparison to a Thin-ideal Peer Promotes Body Dissatisfaction: A Randomized Experiment,” International Journal of Eating Disorders, Vol. 38, 2005, pp. 134-142. doi:10.1002/eat.20171
[14] E. Stice, “Sociocultural Influences on Body Image and Eating Disturbance,” In: Fairburn, C.G and Bronwell, K.D., Eds., Eating Disorders and Obesity: A comprehensive Hand-book, The Guildford Press, New York, 2002, pp. 103-107.
[15] K. M. Flegal, M. D. Carroll, C. L. Ogden and C. L. Johnson, “Prevalence and Trends in Obesity among US Adults, 1999-2000,” Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 288, 2002, pp. 1723-1727. doi: 10.1001/jama.288.14.1723
[16] N. Hawkins, P. S. Richards, H. Granley and D. M. Stein, “The Impact of Exposure to the Thin-ideal Media Image on Women,” Eating Disorders, Vol. 12, 2004, pp. 35-50. doi:10.1080/10640260490267751
[17] B. L. Spitzer, K. A. Henderson and M. T. Zivian, “Gender Differences in Population Versus Media Body Sizes: A comparison over Four Decades,” Sex Roles, Vol. 40, 1999, pp. 545-565. doi:10.1023/A:1018836029738
[18] H. Ditt-mar and S. Howard, “Professional Hazards? The Impact of Model’s Body Size on Advertising Effectiveness and Women’s Body-focused Anxiety in Professions that Do and Do not Emphasize the Cultural Ideal of Thinness,” British Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 43, 2004, pp. 1-33. doi:org/10.1348/0144666042565407
[19] E. Hal-liwell and H. Dittmar, “Does Size Matter? The Impact of Model’s Body Size on Women’s Body-focused Anxiety and Advertising Effectiveness,” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 23, No. 1, 2004, pp. 104-122. doi:10.1521/jscp.
[20] R. D. Peterson, S. Tantleff-Dunn and J. S. Bedwell, “The Effects of Expo-sure to Feminist Ideology on Women’s Body Image,” Body Image, Vol. 3, 2006, pp. 237-246. doi:org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2006.05.004
[21] J. K. Thompson, L. J. Heinberg, M. Altabe and S. Tantleff-Dunn, “Exacting Beauty: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment of Body Image Disturbance,” American Psychological Association, Washington, 1999.
[22] P. C. Evans, “If Only I Were Thin like Her, maybe I could be Happy like Her: The Self-implications of Associating a Thin Female Ideal with Life Success,” Psychological of Women Quarterly, Vol. 27, 2003, pp. 209-214. doi:10.1111/1471-6402.00100
[23] E. Stice and S. K. Bearman, “Body-image and Eating Disturbances Prospectively Predict Increases in Depressive Symptoms in Adolescent Girls: A growth curve analysis,” Developmental Psychology, Vol. 37, 2001, pp. 597-607. doi:10.1037//0012-1649.37.5.597
[24] E. Stice, “Review of the Evidence for a Sociocultural Model of Bulimia Nervosa and an Exploration of the Mechanisms of Action,” Clinical Psychology Review, Vol. 14, 1994, pp. 633-661. doi:10.1016/0272-7358(94)90002-7
[25] L. M. Groesz, M. P. Levine and S. K. Murnen, “The Effect of Experi-mental Presentation of Thin Media Images on Body Satisfaction: A Meta-analytic Review,” International Journal of Eating Disorders, Vol. 31, 2002, pp. 1-16. doi:10.1002/eat.10005
[26] W. Stice and H. E. Shaw, “Role of Body Dissatisfaction in the Onset and Main-tenance of Eating Pathology.A Synthesis of Research Findings,” Journal of Psychosomatic Research, Vol. 53, 2002, pp. 985-993. doi:10.1016/S0022-3999(02)00488-9
[27] K. Harrison, “Ourselves, our bodies: Thin-ideal media, self-discrepancies, and eating disorder symptomatology in adolescents,” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychol-ogy, Vol. 20, 2001, pp.289-323. doi:10.1521/jscp.
[28] H. Dittmar, E. Halliwell and E. Stirling, “Understand the Impact of Thin Media Models on Women’s Body-focused Affect: The Roles of Thin-ideal Internalization and Weight-related Self-discrepancy Activation in Experimental Exposure Effects,” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 28, 2009, pp. 43-72. doi:10.1521/jscp.2009.28.1.43
[29] E. Halliwell and H. Dittmar, “Associations between Appearance-related Self-discrepancies and Young Women’s and Men’s Affect, Body Dissatisfaction, and Emotional Eating: A Comparison of Fixed-item and Participant-generated Self-discrepancies,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 32, 2006, pp. 447-458. doi:10.1177/0146167205284005
[30] L. J. Heinberg, “Theories of Body Image Disturbance: Perceptual, Developmental, and Sociocultural Factors,” In: Thompson, J. K. and Smolak, L., Eds., “Body Image, Eating Disorders, and Obesity in Youth: Assessment, prevention, and Treatment,” American Psychological Association, Washington, 2001, pp. 27-47.
[31] P. A. Klaczynski, K. W. Goold and J. J. Mudry, “Culture, Obesity Stereotypes, Self-esteem, and the “thin ideal”: A Social Identity Perspective,” Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Vol. 33, 2004, pp. 307-317. doi:10.1023/B:JOYO.0000032639.71472.19
[32] L. A. Hohlstein, G. T. Smith and J. G. Atlas, “An Application of Expectancy Theory to Eating Disorders: Development and Validation of Measures of Eating and Dieting Ex-pectances,” Psychological Assessment, Vol. 10, 1998, pp. 49-58. doi:10.1037//1040-3590.10.1.49
[33] M. B. Schwartz and K. D. Brownell, “Obesity and body image,” In: Cash, T.F. and Pruzinsky, T., Eds., Body image: A Handbook of Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice, The Guildford Press, New York, 2002, pp. 200-209.
[34] L. C. Blowers, N. J. Loxton, M. Grady-Flesser, S. Occhipinti and S. Dawe, “The Relationship between Sociocultural Pressure to be Thin and Body Dissatisfaction in Preadolescent Girls,” Eating Behaviors, Vol. 4, 2003, pp. 229-244. doi:10.1016/S1471-0153(03)00018-7
[35] K. G. Low, S. Charanasomboon, C. Brown, G. Hiltunen, K. Long, K. Reinhalter and H. Jones, “Internalization of the Thin Ideal, Weight and Body Image Concerns,” Social Behavior and Personality, Vol. 31, 2003, pp. 81-90. doi:10.2224/sbp.2003.31.1.81
[36] K. J. Preacher and A. F. Hayes, “SPSS and SAS Procedures for Estimating Indirect Effects in Simple Mediation Models,” Behaviour Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, Vol. 36, 2004, pp. 717-731. doi:10.3758/BF03206553
[37] G. Tsiantas and R. M. King, “Similarities in Body Image in Sisters: The Role of Sociocultural Internalization and Social Comparison,” Eating Disorders, Vol. 9, 2001, pp. 141-158. doi:10.1080/10640260127717
[38] D. L. Reed, J. K. Thompson, M. T. Brannick and W. P. Sacco, “Development and Validation of the Physical Appearance State and Trait Anxiety Scale (PASTAS),”Journal of Anxiety Disorders, Vol. 5, 1991, pp. 323-332. doi:10.1016/0887-6185(91)90032-O
[39] K. J. Preacher and G. J. Leonardelli, “Calculation for the Sobel Test: An Interactive Calculation Tool for Mediation Tests [Online software],” 2010.

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.