How Does Body Image Influence Adolescents?

It's important for parents to be close to their children in order to help them develop a healthy body image. Read today's article to find out more. 
How Does Body Image Influence Adolescents?

Last update: 19 October, 2018

Adolescence is a stage during which changes are predominant. Youth tend to feel unsure and even uncomfortable in regards to their appearance. Their desire to look good and be accepted by others determines how body image will influence their adolescence.

It’s normal to treat appearance with importance. However, teens tend to over-emphasize the importance of physical features . By idealizing them, they stop perceiving their own attributes in a healthy way. And rather than making an effort to value them and optimize them, they despise them or try to cover them up.

It’s worth pointing out just where the influence that body image has on adolescence comes from. Most of that influence comes from stereotypes, messages from the media and the opinions of peers. 

Teens end up trying to fit into these socially acceptable ideals and formulas. And they do so even though it brings no true satisfaction – rather, it only brings pressure.

Body image during adolescence

Now, just as we mentioned above, this is a stage that is full of changes on a physical level. These changes include height, weight, hair color, etc.

All of these changes awaken a sense of fragility. Suddenly, adolescents face the irreversible loss of their childhood body – the only one they have ever known.

Youth must constantly adjust themselves to new shapes and sizes. It’s normal and understandable for them to feel uncomfortable with this process. In this sense, hormonal and sexual changes are quite evident and there’s no way to hide them.

And from a teen’s point of view, the changing body is a source of embarrassment. It opens them up to public judgement in a very aggressive way .

Principal changes

Teens go through a series of changes according to their sex. As for young women, they experience the growth of breasts, the widening of their hips, menstruation, etc.

Young men mainly experience the appearance of facial hair, lowering of their voices, ejaculation, etc. The changes that both sexes encounter during adolescence are the following :

  • Acne.
  • Increased height.
  • Genital development.
  • Appearance of pubic and underarm hair.
  • Weight gain (both related to increased height, and not).

Body image and making comparisons during adolescence

Making comparisons is one of the techniques that humans employ to understand reality. However, during adolescence, this can become a great disadvantage.

By constantly comparing themselves to others, teens tend to create mistaken ideas about themselves. They maintain an unhealthy self-criticism that can lead them to frustration and low self-esteem.

From their point of view, similarities are comforting and differences cause conflict.

Tips for creating positive body image during adolescence

Below are some suggestions for helping your adolescent children develop a positive body image:

1. Be a good example

Show your children that you’re able to have fun. Don’t shy away from cameras and bathing suits or criticize your own appearance. Stop comparing yourself to others, but rather let your kids see that you’re comfortable in your own skin.

Express yourself through your body image, valuing your abilities and even your defects. Speak openly about the normality and beauty of imperfections. 

2. Remind them of their beauty

Take the time to tell your children how beautiful they are. Provide concrete details and point out specific things that you see as beautiful. Include not only your children’s physical features, but also their style, inner beauty, and uniqueness.

3. Talk about what they see in the media

Speak with your kids about the messages behind what they see and read in the media. Remind them that media’s representation of beauty is unrealistic. Talk about the reality of retouched photos and plastic surgery behind what they see. This will help your children realign their concepts of stereotypical beauty.

4. Maintain open communication with your teens

Good communication with your children will allow you to ask them questions and discover what’s going on in their lives. Maturity isn’t synonymous with perfection, but rather greater reflection in one’s thinking. The ability to reflect on oneself and about one’s values is a way in which your children can develop emotional maturity.

How Does Body Image Influence Adolescents?

5. Encourage your children to practice some sort of physical activity

Being proactive plays an important role in self-esteem in regards to physical appearance. Teens who are more physically active are more likely to have a positive body image in the long term.

6. Point out their strengths

Each time you notice your children are unhappy with their body image, help them see their strengths. For example, subtly point out how nice their hair looks, or how well a certain color suits them, etc. These are simple tricks, but they’re highly effective.

Developing a positive body image during adolescence is no easy task. However, we can make it more bearable for our teens.

We must invite them to have a positive and critical attitude and develop good life habits that allow them to obtain what they want in life.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Ramos Valverde, P., Rivera de los Santos, F. J., & Moreno Rodríguez, M. D. C. (2010). Diferencias de sexo en imagen corporal, control de peso e Índice de Masa Corporal de los adolescentes españoles. Psicothema, 22 (1), 77-83.;jsessionid=96B7D785E70C04FED31E3A2684983699?
  • Gonçalves Câmara, S., & Bedin Tomasi, L. M. (2015). Bienestar, salud e imagen corporal de adolescentes brasileros: la importancia de los contextos familiares, de amistad y escolar. Universitas psychologica, 14(4), 1399-1409.
  • Caño, A. y Rodríguez, C. (2012). Autoestima en la adolescencia: análisis y estrategias de intervención. International Journal of Psycholgy and Psychological Therapy, 12, 3. Facultad de Psicología. España: Málaga
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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.