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Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Body Image, Self-Esteem, Gender and Race

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have published a study suggesting that race and gender affect whether self-esteem in linked to body weight. Research has shown that teens who believe their body and their self are the same have lower self-esteem. Being able to separate body from self would enable medical professionals, parents, and educators to help teens feel good about themselves in spite of not having the culturally accepted "perfect" body.

The research was done with more than 1,000 7th and 8th graders who answered questions about their perceived attractiveness, self-esteem, depression, media use, physical health, ethnic identification, and sexuality. The authors found that most teens who reported high body satisfaction also reported high self-esteem, and white females were the most likely to have high self-esteem if they liked their bodies. This pattern held for other teens, although the link was not as strong, all except for black males, who did not seem to have to like their bodies to have high self-esteem. These young men still did not like it if they were overweight, but could have high self-esteem, separate from being overweight.

I would like to hypothesize that this is strongly associated to the images of black males seen by these youths. There may be more black male celebrities and musicians who are overweight than there are overweight female celebrities of any ethnic group. Bottom line - what our teens see in the media matters!

Photo Credit: Lazy Lightning

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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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