Girls pressured to be thin by peers, not television.

Girls Pressured To Be Thin By Friends, Not Television [Study]

Girls feeling pressured to be thin isn’t a new topic. Now, however, some of the blame may shift from television and movies — to friends. A new study suggests that girls are pressured to be thin by their friends, not television or movies.

Television, movies, magazine, and other media often get the blame for imposing unrealistic body image expectations on girls. But a new study shows that girls actually feel the biggest pressure to be thin not from rail-thin runway models but from their peers. Researchers from Texas A&M International University recruited 237 Hispanic girls, ages 10 to 17, and asked them to name their favorite television shows. The girls were asked to rate the level of attractiveness of the female actresses in those shows. This was to measure the girls’ exposure to Hollywood beauty standards.

Researchers then evaluated the girls’ body weight and height, social media use, and peer competition, or feelings of inferiority, in response to other girls. The participants were asked how they felt about their bodies. They were also asked if they’d ever struggled with an eating disorder and how satisfied they were with their lives.

Six months later, the process was repeated with 101 of the girls. According to the results, media exposure did not “predict eating disorder symptoms nor did these factors predict body dissatisfaction,” the researchers said.

However, peer competition played a significant role in how girls felt about their lives and bodies. In the long term, it was peer pressure that influenced the symptoms of eating disorders.

“Our results suggest that only peer competition, not television or social media use, predict negative outcomes for body image,” the study’s authors conclude in a paper that appeared this month in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. “This suggests that peer competition is more salient to body and eating issues in teenage girls.”

In another finding study, both peer competition and social media use predicted lower levels of satisfaction with life. The authors wrote that “social media use may provide a new arena for peer competition, even if it does not directly influence negative body outcomes.”

Previous research indicates that Facebook and other social media sites can be dangerous mediums for social comparisons.Time spent viewing friend’s Facebook status updates lowered the self-esteem of viewers. This is made worse by those who have lots of Facebook friends.

[Image via Shutterstock]