Hypothesis: The majority of teenage girls in Western Australia have a negative body image perception of themself. Body Image: Body image defines how an individual feels about their own body. It is their opinion of their personal appearance and relates to an individual's judgment of their size, weight, shape and physical appearance of either a particular body part or their whole structure. Body image can be defined as .".. a concept or scheme incorporating a collection of feelings and perceptions such as overall awareness of the body, perception of body boundaries, attention to parts of the body as well as the whole, perception of size of the parts and the whole, and position in space and gender-related perceptions... It has been studied from numerous and varied perspectives, such as psychological, philosophical and sociological." (Reference: web) People can have a positive or a negative body image perception.

Positive Body Image: A positive body image is the true perception of your appearance. It is accepting and feeling comfortable and confident about how you look so that "You celebrate and appreciate your natural body shape and you understand that a person's physical appearance says very little about their character and value as a person." (Reference: web) Positive body image reflects confidence and pride in your body and refusal to worry about food, calories and weight or size. Negative Body Image: A negative body image is having a distorted perception of your physical shape, believing yourself to be unattractive, being self-conscious about your weight, size and shape and having a low self esteem in regards to your body. "Health problems occur when our image of our own body shape and size is too far from reality and from what is considered to be idea for our somatotype." (Reference: pp. 56 Health, Life and Living) "Children and adolescence become overweight when they are unhappy, depressed or under stress." (pp. 98 Guide to Women's Health, Puberty to Menopause and Beyond) A large portion of young girls in our Western society have a low self-esteem and a negative body image perception.

Causes of Negative Body Image Perception: o Bad peer or family relationships o Physical or sexual abuse o Social pressures o Dating o Being teas about weight, size or physical appearance o Not being able to conform to society's idealistic view of body image Consequences of Negative Body Image Perception: Negative body image can lead to o depression o isolation o low self esteem o lack of confidence o And a higher risk of developing eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and compulsive overeating. Girls who develop negative body image perceptions can experience "profound emotional and psychological change. It is a time when peer group norms and social expectations play a major role in the development of self-concept." (Reference: web) It can physically and psychologically hurt a person and sometimes result in fatal consequences. Physical Development: As young girls reach a certain age, they reach adolescence. When this occurs their bodies tend to develop and become fuller in certain areas, for example stomach, breasts and hips. Over a period of four years during adolescence the average girl grows 25% taller and gains almost double her body weight.

"Female adolescents prefer to weigh less, and dissatisfaction with body measurements increases between the ages of 12 and 18" (Reference: web) It is these girls who are most likely to develop eating disorders as a result of negative body image perception. In our weight-obsessed society young girls are likely to become unhappy about their body and appearance as a result of the idealistic body image portrayed in the media. Statistical Information: Over half the population of Australian girls in senior high school and a quarter of the boys have tried some sort of diet or weight-loss regime to reduce their weight and size. Approximately 80% of American and Australian women are dissatisfied with their appearance and have a negative body image.

In Western cultures the criteria which judges social acceptance and attractiveness is largely based on body shape, size and other elements of one's physical appearance. A certain body image is promoted in the media in Western cultures which promotes thinness. The media portray having big breasts, small stomachs and waists, fairly big hips and skinny arms and legs to be the 'right' or 'attractive' way to look. "The average American woman is 5'4" tall and weighs 140 pounds.

The average American model is 5'11" tall and weighs 117 pounds. Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American woman." (Reference: web) "Females are exposed to greater pressures to make their body appearance conform to media ideals than are males." (Reference: web). About one in twenty adolescent girls have some sort of problem regarding their body image or eating patterns. It was shown in the Youth Risk Behaviour Survey that 14.

7% of males considered themselves to be overweight as did 34. 3% of the females, although 12. 9% of these females actually were (according to the BMI tests done in this experiment). These results show that girls all over the world, mainly in Western countries, are so brainwashed by the media and our social expectations that they are constantly under pressure to conform to the unrealistic body image.

Importance of this Topic: I chose to investigate this particular topic because I believe it is an important issue our society is faced with today. From my research I have found that the number of young women who have eating disorders as a result of negative body image is enormous. This goes to show that our culture's values are too superficial and focus on the wrong aspects of life. I think our society needs to do more to stop this growing problem and promote a more healthy body shape in the media. It was of particular importance to me because I am a member of the group of people who suffer most from negative body image perception and thought it would be interesting to conduct a survey among my peers to see how they feel about themselves and this issue.

Bibliography: Pritchard, Mary E, King, Sondra L. ; Czajka-Naris, Doris M. , 'Adolescence', Adolescent Body Mass Indices and Self Perception. Vol.

32, pp. 863 (18) [on-line] Infonautics Corporation 1999 22-12-1997 [cited 12 March 2003] Available from Internet: web > web > web > web > Mackenzie, Dr Frances (1998) Guide to Women's Health, Puberty to Menopause and Beyond, Penguin Book Australia Ltd, Victoria 3134 Walker, Sharon (1997) Essential Health for Women, The Book Company International Pty Ltd, New South Wales Williams, Leonie M, (1998) Health, Life and Living, Heinemann, Victoria 3207.