Women’ s body dissatisfaction has been consistently and positively correlated with exposure to unrealistic images of women in media. However, is media really to blame for some women’ s negative body images and disordered eating, or is media being wrongfully accused? Some researchers hypothesize that media influences are at fault while others believe media influences represent only a minor factor in a bigger picture. After evaluating a plethora of research discussing the relationships found between media and body dissatisfaction as well as the relationships found between media and maladaptive eating behaviors, I identified four prominent theories that are used to conceptualize how media may contribute to body dissatisfaction and eating pathology.
This presentation explores the four theories, their advantages and disadvantages, as well as how they can be used to enhance understanding of relationships between media and individual responses. While offering important insights, the theories and supporting evidence represent
only the first step in finding proper prevention and treatment plans for those diagnosed with eating disorders. In order to support actions and interventions designed to prevent and treat eating disorders, future research should include: (a) more inclusive samples that do not consist solely of college-age women (as most are), (b) measures evaluating likely factors in the onset of eating disorders so early detection is possible, and (c) efforts to identify treatment methods that are associated with the lowest rates of relapse.
Alyssa Johnston, ’06 Milwaukee, WI
Majors: Psychology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Sponsor: Carolyn Zerbe Enns