Body satisfaction reflects self-esteem for most teens
The happier most adolescents are with their bodies, the more they like themselves, a new study shows.
But among black boys, the researchers found, there was no connection between body image and self esteem. This could be because these young men have a unique resilience to the "toxic" stream of media images emphasizing the importance of personal appearance, or it may be that such messages simply don"t target them, lead researcher Dr. Eliana Miller Perrin of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill told Reuters Health.
"If they represent a group that doesn"t show this connection between body-esteem and self-esteem, it may be quite interesting to do more research looking at their attitudes about their bodies and their self-esteem," Perrin added, noting that black male adolescents are a traditionally understudied group.
Perrin and her colleagues surveyed 1,017 seventh- and eighth-graders to investigate how gender and race affect the link between body satisfaction and self-image.
Among all teens except for black boys, the researchers found, high body satisfaction translated to high self-esteem.
White girls who were highly satisfied with their bodies were seven times more likely to have high self-esteem, while black girls with high body satisfaction were three times more likely to have high self esteem.
All teens who said they wanted to lose weight were less likely to be satisfied with their bodies, and this association was particularly strong for white girls. While black boys who were overweight or at risk of being overweight were less satisfied with their bodies, this was unrelated to their self-esteem.
More research is needed, Perrin said, to better understand how some teens but not others are able to feel good about themselves whether or not they are satisfied with their bodies.
Perrin and her colleagues will be following the boys and girls in the current study over time to try to answer this question.
"Teenagers want to talk more about healthy eating and activity in the doctor"s office," she added. "We probably should be asking teens how they feel about their bodies and how they feel about themselves in the doctor"s office."