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From negative to positive body image: Men's and women's journeys from early adolescence to emerging adulthood

Journal article
Authors Kristina Holmqvist Gattario
Ann Frisén
Published in Body Image
Volume 28
Pages 53-65
ISSN 1740-1445
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 53-65
Language en
Keywords Body appreciation, Body image development, Bullying, Negative body image, Positive body image, Qualitative research, Turning points, adolescence, adolescent, adult, adulthood, article, body build, body image, clinical article, empowerment, female, feminism, human, human experiment, human tissue, identity, interview, male, peer pressure, physical appearance, social environment
Subject categories Psychology


This study examined the developmental journeys of individuals who have overcome negative body image in early adolescence and developed positive body image on their way to emerging adulthood. Interviews were conducted with 15 women and 16 men (aged 26–27) recruited from a large longitudinal sample. Results demonstrated different patterns of positive body image development, but most participants had overcome their negative body image by age 18. Factors contributing to their negative body image in early adolescence included negative peer influence and discontent with life in general. Turning points included finding a new social context, experiencing agency and empowerment, and using cognitive strategies to improve body image. Characteristics of the participants’ current positive body image coincided with established features of positive body image; novel findings were that the women were more likely to think of positive body image as needing constant work to maintain and were also more likely to have a feminist identity, whereas the men were more likely to try to improve their body shape and perceive their body as resembling the ideal. In conclusion, body image interventions need to target not only matters related to physical appearance but also adolescents’ general sense of belonging, agency, and empowerment. © 2018 Elsevier Ltd

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