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In what different ways is the body salient in people’s identities?

Konferensbidrag (offentliggjort, men ej förlagsutgivet)
Författare Johanna Kling
Maria Wängqvist
Ann Frisén
Publicerad i Appearance Matters 8 Conference, Bath, UK, June 12-14
Publiceringsår 2018
Publicerad vid Psykologiska institutionen
Språk en
Ämnesord Body image; Identity; Embodiment; Qualitative; Young adult
Ämneskategorier Psykologi


Previous research has found associations between negative body image and identity problems. However, there are also theoretical reasons to assume much greater diversity in relations between body image and identity, and this study investigates these diverse relations further. Specifically, the aim of the present study was to attend to a gap in previous research by exploring the different ways in which young adults experience their bodies as salient to their identities. Interviews were conducted with a community sample of 121 young adults (M age=33.3; SD=.54; 62 women and 59 men). Thematic analysis resulted in four main themes, reflective of the content of the participants’ descriptions. The first main theme, Identification with the body, included descriptions of the participants’ experiences of the body as inseparable from their identity, as well as how appearance- or body-related changes has led to identity changes. An example of a statement regarding this theme came from a participant who said that: “This is the body that I’ve had and the one I’ve got so this body is me”. The second main theme, Body functionality as a means to perform identity-relevant tasks, included participants’ descriptions of bodily functions as a means to perform activities important to their identity. The third main theme, Appearance and identity in social interactions, comprised participants’ reflections about the body’s role as a means to display identity in social interactions, and how appearance-related interactions influence identity. The fourth main theme, Identity-relevant bodily engagement, included participant’s descriptions of spending considerable time and effort engaging in the body as an essential aspects of who they were. The present study offers valuable knowledge in a novel research area by showing a diversity of experiences of how the body is important in relation to people’s identities. The results show that the ways in which the body is salient for young adults’ identity include, but also go far beyond, previous associations between negative body image and identity problems. It also highlights positive aspects, functionality, embodied experiences, and social environments.

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