Exposure to underweight models can have serious consequences to teen girls’ psychological and physical health. Research has shown that thin-ideal internalization is related to lower self-esteem, unhealthy dieting behaviours, and eating disorder behaviours (Harrison, 2001; Johnson & Wardle, 2005; Tiggemann, 2005).

Thin-ideal internalization refers to the extent to which an individual accepts or absorbs socially defined ideals of attractiveness and engages in behaviours to achieve this look. Research has shown that thin-ideal internalization increases body dissatisfaction, dieting, and negative affect (Keery, Boutelle, van den Berg, Thompson, 2005).

Body Dissatisfaction and Media

Body dissatisfaction, although common among females of all ages, is “especially prevalent during adolescence when body image is the most important component of adolescent girls’ self-esteem” (Hargreaves & Tiggemann, 2004, p. 351). Alarmingly, studies have found that even girls as young as 9 years old have considerable dissatisfaction with their bodies (Hill, Draper, & Stack, 1994).

Investigation of possible causes or contributors to body dissatisfaction in young girls has consistently pointed the finger at exposure to the unrealistically thin female body images in the media (Botta, 1999; Champion & Furnham, 1999; Stice, Spangler, & Agras, 2001).

Correlational studies have shown that young females who watch more television and who read more magazines report higher dissatisfaction with their bodies (Anderson, Huston, Schmitt, Linebarger, & Wright, 2001; Harrison, 2000). Experimental studies have shown that exposure to unrealistically thin and idealized female body images leads to increased state body dissatisfaction for adolescent girls (Durkin & Paxton, 2002; Hargreaves & Tiggemann, 2002).

Media Literacy

Considering the effects of media on teenage girls’ psychological well being, it is vital parents take steps to educate teens on media literacy. Media literate teens are able to analyze visual and audio messages received from TV, magazines, the Web, etc., and are able to critically think about them before they accept what they are exposed to as the truth. With an instinct to question the motives of the producers, teens can be less susceptible to the messages they receive.

Ivana Pejakovic , Life Coach in Toronto


Anderson, D. R., Huston, A. C., Schmitt, K. L., Linebarger, D. L., & Wright, J. C. (2001). Early childhood television viewing and adolescent behaviour: the recontact study. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 66, vii-147.

Botta, R. A. (1999). Television images and adolescent girls’ body image disturbance. Journal of Communication, 49, 22-41.

Champion, H. & Furnham, A. (1999). The effect of the media on body satisfaction in adolescent girls. European Eating Disorders Review, 7, 213-228.

Durkin, S. J., & Paxton, S. J. (2002). Predictors of vulnerability to reduced body image satisfaction and psychological wellbeing in response to exposure to idealized female body images in adolescent girls. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 53, 995-1005.

Hargreaves, D. A., & Tiggemann, M. (2004). Idealized media images and adolescent body image: “comparing” boys and girls. Body Image, 1, 351-361.

Hargreaves, D. A., & Tiggemann, M. (2002). The effect of television commercials on mood and body dissatisfaction: the role of appearance-schema activation. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 21, 287-308.

Harrison, K. (2001). Ourselves, our bodies: thin ideal media, self-discrepancies, and eating disorder symptomatology in adolescents. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 20, 289-323.

Harrison, K. (2000). The body electric: thin ideal media and eating disorders in adolescents. Journal of Communication, 50, 119-143.

Hill, A., Draper, E., & Stack, J. (1994). A weight on children’s minds: body shape dissatisfaction at 9-yers old. International Journal of Obesity, 18, 183-196.

Johnson, F., & Wardle, J. (2005). Dietary restraint, body dissatisfaction, and psychological distress: a prospective analysis. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 114, 119-125.

Keery, H., Boutelle, K., van den Berg, P., & Thompson, J. K. (2005). The impact of appearance-related teasing by family members. Journal of Adolescent Health, 37, 120-127.
Tiggemann, M. (2005). Body dissatisfaction and adolescent self-esteem: prospective findings. Body Image, 2, 129-135.

Stice, E., Spangler, D., & Agras, W. S. (2001). Exposure to media-portrayed thin ideal images adversely affects vulnerable girls: a longitudinal experiment. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 20, 270-288.

Author's Bio: 

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA, is a motivational Life Coach working teens & young adults with body image issues, low self-esteem & confidence. These are key factors keeping teens from participating in activities, making good choices, finding friends, & doing well in school.

For more information visit www.lifecoachintoronto.com