Macalester College study: Girls’ body image affected by older peers in middle school

24 Sep

The media presents an unrealistic image of perfection for women and girls. What they don’t disclose is for many of the “super” models their only job and requirement is the maintenance of their appearance. Their income depends on looks and what they are not able to enhance with plastic surgery and personal trainers, then that cellulite can be photoshopped or airbrushed away. That is the reality. Kid’s Health has some good information about Body Image

Science Daily reported in the article, Middle school dilemma: Girls’ body image affected by older peers:

The media is highly criticized for contributing to body image issues in adolescents. However, a study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly finds a different source for body dissatisfaction among young girls: older girls at school.

A research team led by Jaine Strauss, Professor of Psychology at Macalester College, surveyed 1,536 5th through 8th-grade female students attending schools with different grade groupings. Some 5th and 6th graders attended school with older students (i.e. in districts that follow the “middle school” model) and others attended school with younger students (i.e. in districts where 7th and 8th graders attend a “junior high” apart from younger grades). The students completed three questionnaires asking about their eating habits, attitudes about appearance, and feelings of body consciousness.

The researchers, which also included a high school teacher and two high school students, found that female 5th and 6th graders who were educated alongside older girls reported a greater desire to be thin as well as less satisfaction with and more self-consciousness about their bodies. For example, 5th graders who attended school with 6th through 8th graders had a mean body dissatisfaction score that was 1.7 times higher than girls in the same grade who attended a typical elementary school.

“Elevated levels of body dissatisfaction, drive for thinness, thin-ideal internalization, body surveillance, and body shame may undermine young teens’ social, emotional, and academic well-being both during the early teen years and in later life,” the researchers commented. “Although body image tends to decline as girls move through adolescence, this study suggests that school grade groupings may influence the pace and timing of this decline….”


Middle school dilemma: Girls’ body image affected by older peers
Date: September 18, 2014

Source: SAGE Publications
The media is highly criticized for contributing to body image issues in adolescents. However, a study finds a different source for body dissatisfaction among young girls: older girls at school.

Contextualizing the “Student Body”
Is Exposure to Older Students Associated With Body Dissatisfaction in Female Early Adolescents?
1. Jaine Strauss1⇑
2. Jacklyn M. Sullivan2
3. Christine E. Sullivan2
4. Stephen J. Sullivan3
5. Chloe E. Wittenberg1
1. 1Department of Psychology, Macalester College, St. Paul, MN, USA
2. 2General Douglas MacArthur High School, Levittown, NY, USA
3. 3Lawrence High School, Cedarhurst, NY, USA
1. Jaine Strauss, Department of Psychology, Macalester College, 1600 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105, USA. Email:
Research on teens’ body dissatisfaction documents the role of proximal social influences (e.g., peers and family) and distal social influences (e.g., mass media) but largely ignores intermediate contextual factors such as school environment. Is there a link between individual body image and student body? We assessed drive for thinness, body dissatisfaction, thin-ideal internalization, and body objectification in an ethnically diverse sample of 1,536 female students educated in U.S. school districts varying in the degree to which younger students (fifth and sixth graders) are educated alongside older students (seventh and eighth graders). We studied three different grade groupings: junior high (Grades K–6 housed together/Grades 7–8 housed together), middle school (K–5/6–8), and extended middle school (K–4/5–8). As predicted, fifth and sixth graders attending schools with older students reported more negative body experiences than their age peers attending schools with younger students; similar effects were evident among seventh graders who had been educated with older peers during fifth and sixth grade. Our findings highlight the importance of considering contextual factors in understanding young women’s body image.
• body image
• adolescent development
• objectification
• school environment
• peer relations

There are no perfect people, no one has a perfect life and everyone makes mistakes. Unfortunately, children do not come with instruction manuals, which give specific instructions about how to relate to that particular child. Further, for many situations there is no one and only way to resolve a problem. The Child Development Institute has a good article about how to help your child develop healthy self esteem.
Beautiful people come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. The key is to be healthy and to live a healthy lifestyle.


Helping Girls With Body Image

Characteristics of Middle Grade Students

Middle School Education – Developmental Characteristics

The Young Adolescent Learner

Click to access W1ReadAdLearn.pdf

Traits & Characteristics of Middle School Learners

Association for Middle Level Education: AMLE

Know your students: Nature of the middle school student

NEA – Brain Development in Young Adolescents

Emotional Development in Middle School |


Making time for family dinner

Study: Girls as young as six think of themselves as sex objects

Social media spreads eating disorder ‘Thinspiration’

New emphasis on obesity: Possible unintended consequences, eating disorders

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Blogs by Dr. Wilda:


Dr. Wilda Reviews ©

Dr. Wilda ©

For exclusive content: THE OLD BLACK FART
Subscribe at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: