EFFECT OF BODY IMAGE, BODY DISSATISFACTION AND SELF-OBJECTIFICATION ON SOCIAL ACCEPTANCE
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Social acceptance appears to put undue pressure on females in Nigeria, because, it seems to define their physiological and psychological self-worth and determine their possible and ideal self as they go through their psycho social development. In the western world, there is an increasing focus on body image as been perceived by people. Pictures of movie stars and fashion models strongly impact on girls’ body shape and image perception. Such mass media and diverse socio- cultural pressures are seen to cause an increased awareness of being thin as ideal, and to contribute to the misconception of body size: how the body is viewed and evaluated by the individual and others around. Females in Nigeria are confronted with specific pressures towards thinness and their body been attractive, as social environments in universities tend to foster increased awareness of perceived body image and to reinforce adherence to this unrealistic thin ideals. (Low, K.G, Charanasomboon, S., Brown, C., Hiltunen, G, Long K., Reinhalter, K. , & Jones , H. (2003).
In days of old, Nigeria culture s beauty contest was determined by the size of a woman. i.e A woman that is plump with big buttocks, high thigh, big hips or leg was considered beautiful and these physique presupposes that she was from a wealthy family and she is well taken care of by either the family or husband. (Brink, 1989). In fact in South Eastern part of Nigeria, (Efik, Enugu, Ebonyi, Anambra, Ibobio , Ngwongo & Ndam) especially, among the Anang culture, there was a custom called the fattening room. According to brink (1989); the fattening room is used as a retreat prior to a major social change in person’s life. Before a woman is wedded, she will stay in the fattening room for some period of time to eat, in order to gain weight and to become fat or plump and beautiful before the wedding. The fattening room is where she stays before the major social change occurs. But it seems this concept of plumpness have changed due to the foreign culture and increase literacy rate. (Altabe,1998). But now, beauty has been redefined, and most plump female students are ashamed for inability to meet up with the societal body image description. Thinness now appears to be the ideal body image. More females want to control their body in order to become thin. Being cut between westernization and Africanize, most plump female students find it difficult characterizing their body image to be ideal. They, most often, see themselves to be overweight. And factors that are seemingly contributing to this perceived body image could be media, peer group, parents and even the socio cultural environment.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) (2013), several individuals make the attempt to change something about their bodies. The attempt to change complexion and facial looks for example is more common among the blacks possibly due to dissatisfaction with their body images. Approximately 77% of Nigerian women have been found to engage in practices to change their complexion due to dissatisfaction with their skin color (WHO, 2013). Body image refers to individuals’ perceptions and attitudes toward their physical appearances. Body image discontent is common in western societies and seemed to be creeping into the African societies possibly due to how we imbibe foreign cultures and increase literacy rate (Altabe, 1998).
A complex range of factors have been found to influence body image perception. These include socio-demographic factors e.g. gender; age; country), nutrition, and psychosocial factors such as stress, social support and quality of life. (Paquette & Raine, 2004).
Peer groups and the social culture variables also seem to be contributing factors, not only to body image but, to body dissatisfaction. They achieve this by giving negative or positive stroke to females. These socio cultural agents may lay down the life script by stroking the female, that [she is not ok] she looks fat. This makes a lady to become depressed or even have low self -esteem. The consequences would sometimes lead to some somatoform disorder such as hypochrodriasis, or body dimorphic disorder which could co-morbid with several other disorders including personality and substance abuse disorder.
The effects of the media, peer groups, parents and the society on the female body image seem far alarming. Many females in universities in Nigeria do not seem to be satisfied with their body. Body dissatisfaction is becoming the order of the day among females. Body image dissatisfaction is so prevalent among women that it has been termed a normative discontent.(Chuwunonso, 2015) Concern about body weight, dieting, and related behavior seem so prevalent among female students in the Nigeria universities that they are considered to be normative part of the female’s experience [Christine I,celio, joseph Durlak, and Allision Dymnicki, Yamamura 2006].
Social acceptance appears to be one of the main causes of body dissatisfaction among the females. When females enter into tertiary institutions, they compare their body size and that of their friends and they feel they couldn’t match up with society standard of figure eight or appropriate body size, they become dissatisfy and result to body tuck and some other form of enhancing their body image. Body dissatisfaction among female students can affect their academic performance and lower their self esteem and self concept. It is also seemingly associated with emotional distress, appearance rumination, unnecessary cosmetics surgery, social anxiety and diminished quality of life [cash, 2004]. Now it appears that severe body dissatisfaction could lead to self objectification.
Self objectification occur when the objectifying gaze turned inward ,such that women view themselves through the perspective of an observer and engage in chronic self –surveillance. According to Frederickson and Roberts (1997) state that, because of the nature of the observer’s perspective, internalizing it will result in two consequences for women: a focus on appearance and a lack of focus on agency.
Many studies have investigated body image perception in women (Thompson, 1996), nonetheless, there appears to be a dearth of literature on this subject using Nigerian samples. In relation to age, the association of the age of university students with body image perceptions seems to have not received much attention in the literature, perhaps because of the narrow age bands observed in traditional college student’s population.
Satisfaction with and concerns about body weight are affected by social norms and cultural standards (Szabo,&Allwood, 2006, Jones, Fries, Danish 2007) where being thin is greatly valued within Western societies(Demarest &Allen,2000). Social judgment of appearance seems partly responsible for the unrealistic weight goals sought by young adults
The term “body image” refers to the image a person holds about her/himself. Hutchinson (2003) defines it as “the image of the body that allows a person to know about emotions, sensations, bodily needs, and appetites, and to negotiate the physical environment. It is the image of the body a person hears about as she [or he] listens to her [or his] inner speech.
Negative body image includes a distorted perception of one’s body, feeling ashamed, self-conscious, and anxious about one’s body; thinking of one’s body size or shape as a sign of a personal failure and feeling uncomfortable or awkward in one’s body. It is defined body image as our perception imagination, emotions and physical sensations of, and about, our bodies. It is not static- but ever changing; sensitive to changes in mood, environment, and physical experience. In other words, it is how you feel others perceive you, what you believe about your physical appearance, how you feel about your body, and how you feel in your body.
Viewed from the socio cultural perspective, Wiseman, Gray ,Mosimann& Ahrens (1992) defined body image as societal standards for beauty that emphasize the desirability for thinness and that this ideal is accepted by most women, although it is impossible for many to achieve . Body image has been further defined in many different ways. Cash &Pruzinsky (1990) defined also body image as a person’s thoughts, feelings, and perceptions about his/her body overall, including appearance, age, race, functions, and sexuality
They discussed body image as being multidimensional, consisting of a cognitive and an emotional dimension. Cognitive body image includes beliefs and self-statements about the body. Emotional body image is comprised of experiences of appearance, whether the experiences are comfortable or uncomfortable and if there is satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the body. Body image is a subjective experience; it depends on how the individual interprets himself or herself. How a person perceives his/her body is how they perceive themselves. Banfield&McCabe (2002) concurred that body image is multidimensional, however they identified three aspects: cognitions and affect regarding body, body importance and dieting behavior, and perceptual body image. The cognitive dimension relates to thoughts and beliefs about body shape and the affective dimension includes the feelings that a person has towards their bodies’ appearance.
Body importance and dieting behavior, can be described as behaviors associated with grooming and dieting. Women who focus more on their body shape tend to engage in more grooming and dieting behaviors than women who do not focus so much on body shape. Perceptual body image can be described as the accuracy an individual has when judging their shape, size and weight. Although researchers agree that body image is multidimensional in construct e.g. they do not agree on the amount or nature of the dimensions.
Body image is not static. It can change over time or in a few moments. Cash &Pruzinsky (1990) found that watching television could change a person’s body image by influencing them to think about their weight, attractiveness, or appearance. Body image is not static and it changes over life span. Grogan (1999) concluded from several studies that body image is influenced by many factors (family, friends, teacher, peer and society) and as a person gets older, the influences on body image change and may become stronger or weaker, thus creating flux in body image over the life –span
Body image is generally defined as how one thinks and feels towards one’s body (Cash &Smolak, 2011). Having healthy body image is an important part of having a good life. For example, many studies show that a negative body image is related to destructive behaviors (Cash &Smolak, 2011). Other studies show that a positive body image is related to better outcomes, such as happiness and life satisfaction (Tylka, 2011). Body image can be broken down into an affective component—or how people feel about their own bodies—and a cognitive component—what people think their body should be or look like (Gendebien& Smith, 1992).
Researches indicate that individuals attribute, such as low self-esteem and depressive mood as well as higher body mass index (BMI) are risk factors for increases in body dissatisfaction (e.g., Field et al., 2001; Paxton, Eisenberg, &Neumark-Sztainer, 2006; Presnell, Bearman, &Stice, 2004). In addition, sociocultural pressures, such as exposure to idealized media figures, family and peer dieting, pressures to be thin, and weight teasing have been shown to be risk factors for increases in body dissatisfaction (e.g., Field et al., 2001; Groesz, Levine, &Murnen, 2002; Paxton, Eisenberg et al., 2006; Stice&Whitenton, 2002). Recently, attention has turned to examination of cognitive processes that may contribute to the development of body dissatisfaction.More specifically, researchers have investigated cognitive processes that may mediate the relationshipsbetween individual and sociocultural factors and thedevelopment of body dissatisfaction (cash, 2002, Williams, stewart, white, & York- crowe 2002)
Within society, body dissatisfaction is also stereotyped as a “female issue”. There appears to be a social taboo about men speaking out about their image concerns (Pope, Phillips, &Olivardia, 2000). Men who are experiencing dissatisfaction may also avoid talking about or seeking help for body image issues in order to avoid appearing “gay” or “girlie” to their peer (Hargreaves &Tiggeman, 2006). Because males are being forced to remain silent about their body dissatisfaction, it is difficult to convince the public that it is an important issue.
Body dissatisfaction has also been found to be a mediator in the development of muscle dysmorphia, a body image disorder characterized by an extreme desire to gain muscle mass and the fear of becoming smaller (Grieve, 2007). Some controversy has been placed on muscle dysmorphia, in that it is seen as an “attempt to pathologies the sport or hobby of weightlifting or bodybuilding” (Olivardia, 2001). However, these behaviors are viewed as disordered when these desires and fears begin to hinder social and occupational functioning. Examples of such hindrances include missing work to work out, avoiding sexual contact with their partner to save energy for working out, and wearing baggy clothes in order to hide their body due to shame (Pope, Phillips, &Olivardia, 2000).
Behaviors that can result from an individual attempting to reduce their body dissatisfaction can be physically dangerous, even fatal; such as steroid use, extreme dieting, and continuing to exercise even when injured (Olivardia, 2001). This body dissatisfaction is associated with marked emotional distress, appearance rumination, and unnecessary cosmetic surgery (Ohring, Graber, & Brooks-Gunn, 2002; Thompson et al., 1999). Body dissatisfaction also increases the risk for subsequent onset of eating pathology (Attie & Brooks-Gunn, 1989; Killen et al., 1996) and depression among adolescent girls (Rierdan, Koff, &Stubbs, 1989; Stice, Hayward, Cameron, Killen, & Taylor, 2000). Despite the evidence that body dissatisfaction is pervasive and is associated with concurrent and subsequent psychopathology, few studies have investigated the risk factors that predict development of body dissatisfaction.
The putative risk factors for body dissatisfaction that have received the most theoretical attention involve socio cultural pressures. It has been suggested that pressure to be thin from one’s social environment fosters body dissatisfaction because repeated messages that one is not thin enough would be expected to produce discontent with physical appearance (Striegel-Moore, Silberstein, & Rodin, 1986; Thompson et al., 1999). These pressures to be thin can emanate from a variety of sources, such as parents, peers dating partners, and the media. Further, these pressures to be thin can be direct, such as a parent encouraging a daughter to diet, or indirect, such as a peer voicing admiration of ultra-slender models. Scholars have also suggested that weight-related teasing contributes to body image disturbances (Cattarin& Thompson, 1994). For example, overweight children may be given derogatory names that are applied for years. In addition, heightened internalization of the current thin ideal espoused for females and the belief that achieving thinness will result in a plethora of social benefits, such as acceptance and academic success, is also thought to promote body dissatisfaction (Stice&Bearman, 2001). Theoretically, the relentless pursuit of an ultra-slender body that is virtually unattainable promotes dissatisfaction with one ’s physical appearance
Female self objectification can best defined as regular exposure to objectify experiences that socialize girls and women to engage in self objectification, whereby they come to internalize this view of themselves as an object or collection of body parts. Female self objectification has many consequences, including eating disorder, which are associated with depression. According to National Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders , up to 24million people of all ages and genders suffer from eating disorder. Data shows that 47% of girls in the 5th-12th grade report wanting to lose weight because they compare themselves to idealized magazine photographs, and 69%of girls in the 5th-12th grade report that such images influence their idea of a perfect body shape.
A great deal of research has been conducted on the sequelof self objectification (APA, 2007; Moradi&Huang 2008). Harmful psychological effect include identity confusion ,low self esteem, anxiety , shame ,and depression, hatred of or dissatisfaction with one’s body, self hatred,and attentional difficulties .there are also personal costs such as isolation from ones community , lost time and energy spent trying to physically change the self to conform with the standards of dominant group ,and physical risks from some of the more extreme attempts at body modification(e.g. plastic surgery).
There’s no debate, however that self –objectification results in body shame, self –loathing, depression, and low self esteem.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The body size of women in Nigeria tertiary institutions is steadily becoming smaller from thin to flapper bodies. The plumtous body, big hips and big buttocks as well as the voluminous bodies that define the beauty of Nigerian ladies in schools now seemed to be descending. It appears that Western medias such as television, news papers, fashion magazines, movies, advertisement targeting thin young women as models of beauty and socially desirable appearance are the key factors in enhancing body image dissatisfaction and self- objectification among female students.
In addition, there appears a weight prejudice not only in the society but noticeably in all over higher institutions of learning in the federation of Nigeria that are reinforced by peer groups and parents. Parents and peer groups seem to promote thinness by giving positive strokes to those females who are slender and thinner. Social acceptance for thinness appears to enhance success and happiness for more ladies in terms of getting good jobs, fulfilled relationships, positive facial image, wealth, as well as praise and favors from significant others. That means that, the pleasurable disposition accredited to thinness or slenderness might send negative stimulus to female students who cannot attain or fail to attain these ideal body image. These could lead female to believe that they failed the society, their parents and loved ones and in fact, they have failed themselves by not meeting up to the objectified norms of physical self- worth that are set up by the society.
It also appears that females, who see themselves of not being beautiful, might not have a socially acceptable sexual life. As victims of self objectification, it is perceived that female who imagined themselves to be ugly might engage themselves in unhealthy sexual behaviors, knowing that, their physical appearances does not attract men. Hence, research has shown that men are stimulated to have sex with a lady who has culturally acceptable physiques (Strong et 2005). Accordingly, sexual acceptance physique includes height, weight, thinness, slim hips, moderate breast, long and pendulous breast, long neck and long face. Since society has objectified these bodily features of females, it is more likely that female who do not meet these bodily standard to have short relationship life span and the consequences of these could lead to social physique anxiety and negative body image as well as body dissatisfaction. Indeed, it could be perceived that body image is an important feature of female psycho-physiological well being. It plays essential roles in female physical development, emotional and cognitive developments. Hence, it appears society has objectified women and being a victim of objectification, females have now become self objectified thereby putting less emphasis on how their body performs and more conscious of how they look. This might not only lead to appearance anxiety disorder but also social physique anxiety disorder. And female who suffer from this disorder pay less attention to their studies and other mental process.
Female students in tertiary institutions seem to think much on how they look or how they appear more than on their studies. Therefore, their values lie in the eyes of others. This seems to justify why more female students buy costly phones like android, blackberry, iphone, etc; even when they cannot afford it. They still go extra mile to purchase it in order to load it with their pictures and have them displayed on face book and other social network.
Body dissatisfaction seems to be by product of body image and it plays critical roles in women eating habit. More females are becoming anorexia and it seemed like those who keep themselves hungry simply because they want to lose some weight, and they sometimes have weak social relations. More significally, female students who engage in skipping meals, caloric restrictions, use of diet pills or disorderly eating are most likely to suffer from menstruation disorder, dry and cracking skin, and general muscular weakness. And one of the main factors that enhance body dissatisfaction is internalization of socio-cultural beliefs of ideal woman emanating from media, parents and other social agents. The researcher perceived that females who internalize this thin body image might spend much of doing body surveillance and when she fails to meet this ideal body image, she might damage her psychological well being, subsequent experiences, and psycho social disturbances such as low self esteem, low self concept and self efficacy.
In spite of many studies done on women body and body dissatisfaction, few studies have considered body image, body dissatisfaction and self objectification, and there have been studies on body image, body dissatisfaction and social acceptance, but none as ever focused on the Nigerian ladies in the Nigeria society. Women from all cultures experience body image, body dissatisfaction and self objectification (mintz and Kashu beck 1995, story French, Resnick and Bluin 1995). As a result, women from Nigeria, especially females in tertiary institutions, who are experiencing development processes, need also to be the focus of research.
In addition, there appears to be paucity of literature with regards to body image, body dissatisfaction and self objectification on social acceptance among young female adult in tertiary institutions in Nigeria. This study will seek to fill this literature gap within the discipline of psychology.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF STUDY
The main objective of the current study will be to examine the effect of body image, body dissatisfaction and self-objectification on social acceptance .Specifically, the study is poised:
- To examine the effect of body image on social acceptance
- To determine if body dissatisfaction has any effect on social acceptance
- To find out the possible influence of self –objectification on social acceptance.
- To ascertain the possible interaction effects of body image, body dissatisfaction and self objectification on social acceptance among female students in Ekiti State University.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Body image is affective, emotional and behavioral as well as cognitive. The construct could have profound consequence on female student’s psycho social functions in the university communities.
A female student who has negative imagination of her body is likely to feel depressed and become sad, socially exclusive and lose interest in any form of the school activities. This might lead to some negative behavior such as eating disorder, negative dieting as well as un-forward exercises or exercise dependent where-in a female student would prioritize physical exercises over cognitive or academic works in school. Therefore, one significance of the study would be to examine, quantitatively, the effects of persistent body surveillance on female students in their overall functions in the university.
Many female students have attached so much social benefits to beauty or physical appearance to the extent that they have associated it with success or intelligence. These subjective thoughts are associated with high price or cost which they have to pay. Such often includes taking of diet pills, buying workout videos and equipments or going for surgery such as tummy tuck. Some women even delay or avoid pregnancy just because of controlling body weight. Therefore, this study will be significant because it will reveal the negative consequences of excessive thinness, an obsessive compulsive disorder, that is growing among female students in the universities. Additionally, many female students think that their body parts are made to please others. They therefore make their body to be an object that they can control, alter and change to fit their own standard or perceived societal norms. Instead of putting much emphasis on how their body performs, they rather put more values on their appearances and attractiveness of their physique. Some of this leads to behavior changes which may occur with students becoming more habitual to body monitoring in the mirror, believing that their value and psychological self worth in the society lie within their outward appearance. Another significance of this study will be to enhance positive self-perception and ideal self in female students, thereby minimizing the levels of depreciation.
There are limited number of studies on body image, body dissatisfaction, and self objectification. In fact, there appears to be no available literature on this topic in the Nigeria context. This study will therefore help to close the literature gap that has existed in Nigeria.