Objectification Culture: A Study of the Relationships between Objectified Body Consciousness, Mental Health, Body Image and Risky Sexual Behavior in Adolescent Females
Type of DegreeThesis
DepartmentHuman Development and Family Studies
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From a feminist perspective, theorists have increasingly emphasized that, particularly for females, socio-historical context plays an integral role in the development of feelings, thoughts, perceptions, and beliefs about one’s body. Over the course of the last decade, the importance of understanding women’s body objectification experiences in the American cultural context has been widely studied and empirically demonstrated. From these studies has arisen the concept of Objectified Body Consciousness (OBC), a construct consisting of three components, namely body shame, body surveillance, and appearance control beliefs, that operationalized one’s cognitions about his or her own body . Unfortunately, most studies to date are restricted to adult populations and to the American cultural context. The current study made use of a nationally representative probability sample of Swiss adolescent females (n = 4,014, mean age = 17.14 years) to examine the relation-ships between OBC and three aspects of adolescent development particularly, mental health, body image, and risky sexual behavior. This study analyzed participants’ self reported responses to measures of OBC (body surveillance, body shame, and appearance control beliefs), measures of mental health (depressive symptoms, somatic complaints, suicidal ideation), items for body image (perceptions of fatness/thinness and BMI), and measures of risky sexual behavior (age at first intercourse, number of sexual partners, condom use are first intercourse, and condom use at last intercourse) using path analysis. Results indicated, consistent with expectations, that a significant relationship exists between OBC and each of the three adjustment measures investigated in the current study. Strong relationships were found between OBC and each of the mental health measures, as well as between OBC and all of the body image items. This suggests that for adolescent females, a high level of OBC is positively associated with a variety of internalizing behaviors (depressive symptoms, somatic complaints, suicidal ideation, and perceptions of fatness/thinness) and actual body composition (BMI). Significant relationships were also found between OBC and risky sexual behavior, though the magnitude of this relationship was quite modest in comparison to the magnitude of the other relationship tested. Implications are discussed in terms of the developmental nature of OBC and how more research needs to be conducted on younger female populations.