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Title: Media influence on body ideals and body image in rural Nicaragua
Author: Thornborrow, Tracey
ISNI:       0000 0004 7961 0329
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2018
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Many studies have shown that media exposure is positively correlated with both body dissatisfaction and disordered eating behaviours, especially but not exclusively, among young women. In the West, the media's emphasis on a narrow range of 'attractive' body types, which are unusually slim or lean, together with rising population levels of obesity maintains a disparity between media's ideal bodies and people's real bodies. The scant research carried out among non-Western populations is also finding similar media effects. The present research investigated whether media influence shapes body ideals and body image among an ethnically diverse rural Nicaraguan population. Using mixed methods and employing novel measures, I hoped to overcome some of the methodological shortcomings of previous studies. This research comprised of four main studies. The aim of Study 1 was to identify whether media exposure was associated with male and female body size ideals and with general body satisfaction levels among adults in three rural communities with varying levels of media access. There were few village level differences in ideal body size: However, for women, ideal body size ideal was associated with media exposure in the predicted direction. Furthermore, higher media pressure and internalisation of media ideals was significantly associated with lower body satisfaction levels in men and women respectively. While findings supported previous evidence of media influence to some degree, the nature of the visual stimuli used could have been limiting the true picture. Study 2 employed 3D figure modelling software and qualitative methods to ascertain men's perceptions of attractive female body size and body shape, sampling men from two locations with very different levels of media access. Men in the high media village made much slimmer female bodies with fuller breasts than those in the low media village. Furthermore, media exposure did predict ideal body size and some aspects of body shape. However, a fuller lower body shape was not associated with media exposure and was preferred by all men, suggesting some aspects of Nicaraguan men's preferences were influenced by other factors. Studies 3 and 4 investigated women's body size and shape ideals using a similar methodology to that of Study 2. Psychometric questionnaires further measured women's media belief, body image and eating behaviours. Women were sampled from two high ii media access communities, one Mestizo and one Creole, and from one low media access Mestizo community. While there were few group differences in women's body ideals, the high media access Mestizo sample were more dissatisfied and felt more pressure from media than both the low media access Mestizo sample and the high media access Creole sample, supporting previous research in suggesting that media may influence women of some ethnic groups differently. Study 5 looked at children's perceptions of body size, their body size ideals and to further identify if exposure to media imagery, specifically via television viewing, was associated with those perceptions and ideals. This study was longitudinal in design, testing children in communities with varying levels of media access at four time points. Mixed models were used to maximise the analytical power of the data set. Measured across time, television viewing was found to significantly contribute to children's perception of their own body size, their body size ideals and their body size satisfaction. Together, the findings from these studies provide a rich and nuanced picture of Nicaraguan perceptions of attractiveness and provide evidence that exposure to visual media, in this case via television, with its high focus on a narrow range of slim and lean 'ideal' body types, predicts preferences for slimmer bodies and greater body dissatisfaction among a non-Western non-White population in a similar, but not an identical manner as in White, Western populations.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Leverhulme Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available