Displays of Adaptive Body Image by Others: Examining Their Influence on College Women's Body Image
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The negative impact of interacting with others who display maladaptive body image has been well documented. Only recently have researchers started to examine adaptive body image, thus the interpersonal impact of displays of adaptive body image is largely unknown. The overarching goal of the current dissertation is to examine how displays of adaptive body image in others might influence one’s own body image. In Study 1, the goal was to naturalistically examine the unique effects of exposure to others who were body focused (i.e., who talked about dieting, were focused on exercising and working out, and who were preoccupied with their bodies) and non-body focused (i.e., who focused little on body image, and who ate intuitively) on college women’s body image and eating. Ninety-six female university students tracked the frequency of their interactions with body focused and non-body focused others, and reported on their personal body image and eating, each day over the course of a week. Multilevel modeling revealed that higher average levels of exposure to non-body focused others over the week uniquely predicted greater intuitive eating, greater body appreciation and less dietary restraint, whereas higher average exposure to body focused others predicted these outcomes in the opposite direction. Daily levels of exposure to body focused others did not predict eating and body image, but daily exposure to non-body focused others did. On days when women reported more exposure to non-body focused others than their personal average level over the week, or than their previous day’s level, eating and body image were better. In Study 2, the goal was to experimentally examine whether different types of adaptive coping reactions to a body image threat would impact an observer’s body image when faced with personal body image distress. One hundred and fifty-eight female university students underwent a body image distress induction and were then randomly assigned to listen to a vignette in which a peer described reacting to a distressing body image event using self-compassion, self-esteem enhancement, or distraction to reduce their distress. There was no effect of condition on any of the outcome variables. However, participants reported significantly higher body acceptance and body image focused self-compassion after hearing their assigned audio clip, regardless of what type of coping reaction they heard. The goal of Study 3 was to understand the active components of Study 2’s coping vignettes that accounted for the beneficial body image outcomes the study’s participants experienced across the experimental conditions. As the goals and methodology of Study 3 follow directly from the results of Study 2, Studies 2 and 3 are included in the same manuscript in this thesis and are intended to be published as a single manuscript. To isolate the components of these experimental conditions, three vignettes were used depicting someone a) experiencing body image distress with which she coped adaptively, as in Study 2’s three conditions (Adaptive Body Coping condition), b) expressing body image distress but not displaying adaptive coping (Body Distressed condition), and c) denying experiencing body image distress and simply relating well to their body (Body Contented condition). Participants were 207 female university students and the same procedures were used as in Study 2. Those randomly assigned to the Adaptive Body Coping condition experienced significantly greater body image related self-compassion and body acceptance than those in the other two conditions; they also experienced significantly less body image distress than those in the Body Contented conditions, and less body image distress than those in the Body Distressed condition (trend level). Furthermore, those in the Body Distressed condition experienced greater body image related self-compassion than those in the Body Contented condition. These findings are among the first to suggest that witnessing others display adaptive body image can have a beneficial impact on one’s body image, both in one’s daily life and in moments of acute body image distress. Furthermore, the impact of witnessing certain types of adaptive body image displays may be more or less helpful for one’s body image depending on the context. Within this dissertation, we will also examine the implications of these findings from both a theoretical and clinical perspective.
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Kathryn Miller (2021). Displays of Adaptive Body Image by Others: Examining Their Influence on College Women's Body Image. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/16846