Date of Defense


Date of Graduation



Social Work

First Advisor

Patricia Criswell

Second Advisor

Gary Mathews


Body image, Media impact


This paper explores the relationship between media portrayal of women in our society and the adverse impact on body image in girls. Popular media promotes an ideal standard of beauty that is virtually impossible for women to achieve. Our fast food, high sugar culture has proven antithetical to the kind of healthy life style necessary to achieve the often illusory goal of Barbie-style thinness. Mass media, advertising, and the contemporary consumer culture promote body image ideals that are unattainable and unhealthy for young girls in our society. Media images of ultra-thin women result in low self esteem, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. This adverse impact starts at a young age, and has lasting effects. The contemporary fast food, high sugar culture further heightens the conflict in young girls and adolescents. Body dissatisfaction is a major threat to the health and well being of girls and women in our society. There are many important steps that parents can take with their girls, to ensure a more positive body image. This starts with a greater parental awareness of the problem, understanding their own biases, and the adverse impact of media. Some of these parental measures include: countering negative media messages while promoting positive ones, establishing healthy eating habits at home, praising achievements, efforts and character in children rather than appearance, promoting positive school policies, encouraging physical activity, and setting a good example. While there have been significant improvements within the field, the impact is still evidenced by young girls struggling with their body images. Developing and maintaining a healthy body image in girls is a challenging problem in the face of contemporary social pressures, but concerted efforts will provide lasting benefits.


Abstract and citation only available

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Restricted