Subscribe Now Subscribe Today
Research Article

Relationship Between Socio Cultural Attitudes, Appearance and Body Dissatisfaction among Students of Islamic Azad University

G. Pasha and F. Golshekoh
Facebook Twitter Digg Reddit Linkedin StumbleUpon E-mail

This study examined the relation between socio cultural attitudes, appearance and body dissatisfaction in males and females students. In this study 331 student (156 boys and 155 girls) were selected via., stratified random sampling. Tools for measurement were body dissatisfaction and body mass index. As expected, girls showed higher body dissatisfaction and total SATAQ-3. The SATAQ-with four subscales (pressures, importance and internalization-general and internalization-athlete boys. In addition, for girls the strongest predictor of body dissatisfaction was importance, pressure, internalization general, whilst for boys the strongest predictor was pressure and importance.

Related Articles in ASCI
Similar Articles in this Journal
Search in Google Scholar
View Citation
Report Citation

  How to cite this article:

G. Pasha and F. Golshekoh, 2009. Relationship Between Socio Cultural Attitudes, Appearance and Body Dissatisfaction among Students of Islamic Azad University. Journal of Applied Sciences, 9: 1726-1732.

DOI: 10.3923/jas.2009.1726.1732



The definition of disfigurement depends on an interaction between social norms and individual and values. Some cultural practices, such as foot binding, ear piercing and circumcision, clearly alter appearance and sometimes compromise normal functioning, but are not necessarily experienced or perceived as disfiguring (Fallon, 1999). Approximately 1% of the adult populations have a scar, blemish or deformity which severely affects (their) ability to lead a normal life but at least a quarter of men and a third of women report some degree of dissatisfaction with their overall appearance.

The natures of the difficulties experienced by disfigured people have been examined from two overlapping perspectives (Cash, 1990). The first perspective is largely social and cultural in nature and could be thought of as the view from the outside. Studies that have examined the impact of appearance from this perspective have been concerned with how appearance influences social perceptions and interactions. The second perspective has been concerned with the impact of appearance on individual perceptions of self-concept, emotional well-being and quality of life and so could be thought of as the view from the inside. There is a large amount of evidence that self-perceived appearance-the view from the inside-is only modestly related to the social reality of appearance and that this is equally true across the whole appearance spectrum (Ben-Tovim and Walker, 1995; Butters and Cash, 1987). It is therefore essential for researcher to consider both perspectives. In an attempt to bring these two standpoints together, the next section of this review will examine the literature pertaining to social and cultural aspects of appearance and disfigurement (outside views) and then examine psychological impacts (the view from the inside).

Body image has been long studied in the context of physically healthy individuals and persons with eating disorders. Recent interest has extended to medical populations (Benrud et al., 2003) where appearance-related changes and disfigurements are readily visible and can interpersonally salient (e.g., facial scars) and can pose significant challenges to the preservation of positive self-esteem and body image (Rumsey, 2002). Research on upward comparisons suggests that people whit a high tendency to make physical appearance-related comparisons, typically with societal ideals (e.g., fashion models), experience greater body dissatisfaction and more disordered eating (Heinberg and Thompson, 1992) and that such comparisons mediate the relationship between socio-cultural influences and body dissatisfaction and eating disorders (Keery et al., 2004). In contrast, research on downward comparisons (Wills, 1981) suggests that people experiencing negative feeling or cognitions about themselves (e.g., low self-esteem) can and often do, enhance their self-regard by comparing themselves to people they perceive to be less valued, or worse off than themselves (Duckitt, 1992; Major et al., 1991; Wills, 1981). However, there is no research examining the relationship between the tendency to make physical appearance-related comparisons and anti-fat attitudes, nor any research that examines whether physical appearance comparisons play a mediating role in the relationship between body image (physical self-esteem) and anti-fat attitudes. There is good evidence that prejudice toward others is related to feelings about the self (i.e., self-esteem; Duckitt, 1992, for a review) and it may be that the same will be true for feelings based on body image (i.e., physical self-esteem). In two recent studies where dimensions of body image were assessed alongside anti-fat attitudes (Lewis et al., 1997), significant associations were found between the two. Although the relationship between anti-fat attitudes and body image was small in found moderate to large relationship between dimensions of body image and both implicit and explicit anti-fat attitudes. Clearly, a better understanding of the underlying reasons for this prejudice is needed in order to ameliorate or prevent it. Although ideological/socio-cultural beliefs and associated have been found to play a role in anti-fat attitudes, with some societies clearly more prejudiced than others (Crandall et al., 2001), individual differences such as body image and the tendency to compare oneself physically with others may also play an important role. The tendency to make comparisons with perceived superior and inferior others has been shown to decrease and increase psychological well being, respectively. And indeed, there is good evidence that the tendency to make physical appearance-related comparisons mediates the relationship between socio-cultural factors, body image and disordered eating (Thompson et al., 1999).

Many studies have shown that body dissatisfaction is highly prevalent during adolescence (Kostanski et al., 2004; Ricciardelli and McCabe, 2001). Moreover, there has been substantial empirical evidence indicating that girls show greater body dissatisfaction that body (Barker and Galambos, 2003; Eisenberg et al., 2006; Kostanski et al., 2004; Muth and Cash, 1997). Muth and Cash (1997) found in their study focusing on gender differences in body image that 40% of females and 22% of males were not satisfied with their body. Results from a representative sample of 7420 adolescents in the Swiss Multicenter Adolescent Survey on health (Narring et al., 2004) showed that nearly 50% of girls and 18% of bodies were not satisfied with their body. Wardle and Marsland (1990) found similar results with 47% of girls and 72% of boys being satisfied with their body.

Whilst body dissatisfaction in girls is mostly related to a desire to be thinner (Kostanski et al., 2004; Ricciardelli and McCabe, 2001; Wardle and Marsland, 1990), in boys body dissatisfaction is related either to a desire to lose or gain weight or to be more muscular (Cohane and Popem, 2001; Ricciardelli and McCabe, 2001; Smolak et al., 2001; Smolak and Stein, 2006). Although gender differences in frequency and intensity of body-image concerns are widely recognized, few studies have examined attitudes and beliefs that might contribute to these differences or the manner in which they operate. To address these issues, the present study aimed to compare the extent of internalization of media body ideals and the pressure to conform to these ideals, in adolescent girls and boys.

One explanation for gender differences in body dissatisfaction is that there is greater socio cultural emphasis placed on physical attractiveness for girls and women in western society (Mckinley, 1999) and Switzerland is no exception in this respect. Media images create a beauty standard for girls in which a perfect, thin, body is central. However, the thin ideal propagated in media is generally unattainable (Wiseman et al., 1992). It has been suggested that the discrepancy between actual and ideal body can result in body dissatisfaction (Durkin and Paxton, 2002).

Not surprisingly, under these circumstances, larger body size has consistently been observed to predict greater body dissatisfaction in girls (Barket and Galambos, 2003).

The purpose of the present study was to determine the relationship between socio cultural attitudes towards appearance and body dissatisfaction in girls and boys students. We hypothesized that girls would have higher body dissatisfaction than boys and we hypothesized that internalization of body ideals, perceived pressure and BMI would be significant predictors of body dissatisfaction in adolescents, but to a lesser extent in boys than in girls.


Participants: Participants were 311 students girls (n = 155) and boys (n = 156) aged 18 to 28 years (mean total age 22.84 years, SD = 4.36. mean age and SD for girls, 21.66 and 2.98 and for boys, 23.93 and 5.1). Respondents were from 8 Faculty of Islamic Azad University, Ahvaz Branch that a wide range of socioeconomic status areas.

Measures: The Socio cultural Attitudes Towards Appearance Questionnaire-III (SATAQ-3; Thompson et al., 1991) consists of 30 items comprising four dimensions of media influence; pressures (seven items), importance (nine items), internalization-general (nine items) and internalization-athlete (five items). Respondents rated statements from 1 (totally disagree) to 5 (totally agree). The pressures subscale assesses perceived pressures from the media to achieve the cultural beauty ideal and attempts to enhance one’s appearance. Cronbach’s alpha for this subscale was 0.92 in the current sample. The Importance subscale score reflects to what extent media is used as an informational source on attractiveness. In present sample, this subscale had an alpha of 0.93. The internalization subscales reflect internalization of socio cultural ideals related to television, magazines and movies (internalization-general), or athletic and sports figures (internalization-athlete). Cronbach’s alphas were, respectively 0.94 and 0.85 for the internalization subscales. In the present study all scales together represented a general score for thin ideal media susceptibility for each respondent. Cronbachs alpha coefficient of the total scale was 0.95 in this sample. TheSATAQ-3 has been shown to have good convergent validity in a non-clinical sample (Thompson et al., 1991) and excellent internal consistency in a clinical sample (Jones, 2004).

Body dissatisfaction: Body dissatisfaction and was assessed with two measures. The negative body evaluation subscale of the body image questionnaire (Clement and Lowe, 1996) assessed dissatisfaction with one’s own appearance and body, but also feelings of discomfort with ones own body. It contains 10 items such as sometimes, I wish I looked completely different, there is something wrong with my appearance or i don’t like myself on photos. Items are rated from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). This scale has been shown to yield valid and reliable scores (Clement and Lowe, 1996). In addition, body dissatisfaction was also assessed with 10 items from the Frankfurter Body Concept Scales (FBCS) (Dusinger, 1998), with items such as I am satisfied with my appearance, I look quite good or I would like to change some parts of my body. These items also measure dissatisfaction with the own body and appearance and were also rated from 1(strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). The FBCS has been shown to be a reliable and valid questionnaire (Dusinger, 1998). Exploratory factor analysis on the combined 20 items from the two body dissatisfaction measures showed that they loaded on one factor. Therefore, they were used as one body dissatisfaction scale. Body dissatisfaction measure was identical for body and girl’s. Items were appropriate for both genders due to the assessment of a general dissatisfaction independent of a specific body ideal. In this study the internal consistency of the resulting body dissatisfaction scale was 0.91 in girls and 0.86 in boys. Body mass index (kg m-2) was calculated using self-reported weight and height.


As hypothesized (Table 1), girls showed significantly higher body dissatisfaction than boys. Girls had significantly higher pressure, importance, internalization- general, internalization-athlete and total SATQ-3 than boys. However, there was no significant difference between boys and girls on BMI.

The six independent variables explained 29 and 43% of variance and body dissatisfaction in boys and girls, respectively (Table 2, 3).

In both, boys and girls each of the independent variables predicted a significant unique proportion of the variance in body dissatisfaction for girls the strongest predictor of body dissatisfaction was importance, pressure, internalization general, whilst for boys the strongest predictor was pressure and importance.

Table 1: Means and standard deviation for variables in girls (n = 155) and boys (n = 156)
Image for - Relationship Between Socio Cultural Attitudes, Appearance and Body Dissatisfaction among Students of Islamic Azad University

Table 2: Multiple regression analysis predicting body dissatisfaction from socio cultural attitudes towards appearance variable and BMI in boys
Image for - Relationship Between Socio Cultural Attitudes, Appearance and Body Dissatisfaction among Students of Islamic Azad University

Table 3: Multiple regression analysis predicting body dissatisfaction from socio cultural attitudes towards appearance variable and BMI in girls
Image for - Relationship Between Socio Cultural Attitudes, Appearance and Body Dissatisfaction among Students of Islamic Azad University


The main goal of the present study was to examine the relationship and comparison between socio-cultural attitudes towards appearance and body dissatisfaction in girls and boys students. As expected, girls had higher body dissatisfaction than boys. Also for girls, the strongest predictor of boy dissatisfaction was importance, pressure internalization general, whilst for boys the strongest predictor was pressure and importance.

Gender differences in body dissatisfaction were observed, consistent with many other studies (Barker and Gal ambos, 2003; Eisenberg et al., 2006; Kostanski et al., 2004; Muth and Cash, 1997).

Furthermore, girls reported internalization of body ideals to a greater extent and perceived more pressure from media than boys, replicating a previous observation (Wilksch et al., 2006). These differences were not due to differences in BMI between girls and boys. Despite media presentations of idealized image of muscular men, boys being generally less likely to endorse this ideal, may well contribute to the significantly lower body dissatisfaction in boys than girls.

Gender differences in internalization and pressure could be due to girls being exposed to a greater extent to media body ideals than boys. Mass media plays a central role in conveying body ideals (Thompson et al., 1999; Tiggemann and Pickering, 1996) and women are confronted with appearance norms in media in more frequent and explicit ways than men (Strahan et al., 2006) for example, studies have shown that there are more diet and muscle development advertisement in women’s than in men’s magazines (Andersen and DiDomenico, 1992). An additional reason for gender differences in internalization and pressure may be that, in western society, beauty and the current female body ideal is more central to a feminine than to a masculine gender role (Grogan, 1999; Halliwell and Dittmar, 2003; Thompson et al., 1999).

Consistent with earlier studies, the present study found internalization of the body ideal, perceived pressure from media and BMI to contribute to the prediction of body dissatisfaction (Cafri et al., 2005; Jones et al., 2004; McCabe and Ricciardelli, 2003). In line with the hypothesis, internalization, pressure and BMI explained much more of the total variance in girls than boys body dissatisfaction. Although, these variables are clearly associated with body dissatisfaction, in boys particularly, other predictors of body dissatisfaction need to be considered. Personality or psychological variables, such as depressive symptomatology or negative mood, may be especially important in the prediction of body dissatisfaction in boys (McCabe and Ricciardelli, 2003; Paxton et al., 2006; Presnell et al., 2004).

Although internalization was the strongest unique predictor of body dissatisfaction for girls identified in the regression analysis, perceived pressure was the strongest unique predictor for boys. Interestingly, Stice and Whitenton (2002) found in their longitudinal study that perceived pressure to be thin, not internalization, was the strongest predictor of body dissatisfaction in adolescent girls.

The difference in the finding may relate to one study being longitudinal and the other being cross-sectional. Possibly, perceived pressure precedes internalization of the thin ideal, but once this ideal has become part of a girls’ own value system, the difficulty of living up to this ideal may contribute more to body dissatisfaction than perceived external pressures.


In relation to boys, correlations between body dissatisfaction and internalization and body dissatisfaction and pressure, were quite similar. However, the regression analysis suggests that pressure is a somewhat stronger unique predictor of body dissatisfaction than internalization. Future research is required to confirm these relationships. However, it is possible that boys of this age do not internalize a body ideal that is likely to be detrimental to their own view of themselves to the same extent as girls, but do still respond to external messages about the importance of a certain body ideal. It is also possible that the balance of factors associated with body dissatisfaction may change over time and that as boys grow into young adults, perceived pressure may result in greater internalization of media body ideals.

1:  Andersen, A.E. and L. DiDomenico, 1992. Diet vs. shape content of popular male and female magazines: A dose-response relationship to the incidence of eating disorders. Int. J. Eating Disorders, 11: 283-287.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

2:  Ben-Tovim, D. and M.K. Walker, 1995. Body image, disfigurement and disability. J. Psychosomatic Res., 39: 283-291.
CrossRef  |  

3:  Benrud, L.L.M., L.J. Heinberg, C. Boling, J. Reed and B. White et al., 2003. Body image dissatisfaction among women with scleroderma: Extent and relationship to psychosocial function. Health Psychol., 22: 130-139.
Direct Link  |  

4:  Butters, J. and T.E. Cash, 1987. Cognitive-behavioral treatment of women's body-image dissatisfaction. J. Consulting Clin. Psychol., 55: 889-897.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

5:  Barker, E.T. and N.L. Galambos, 2003. Body dissatisfaction of adolescent girls and body: Risk and resource factors. J. Early Adolescence, 23: 141-165.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

6:  Clement, U. and B. Lowe, 1996. FKB-20. Handanweisung (Bodyimage questionnaire manual). Gottingen: Hogrefe.

7:  Crandall, C.S., S. D' Anello, N. Sakalli, E. Lazarus, G.W. Nejtardt and N.T. Feather, 2001. An attribution-value model of prejudice: Antifat attitudes in six nations. Personality Psychol. Bull., 27: 30-37.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

8:  Cafri, G., Y. Yamamiya, M. Brannick and J.K. Thompson, 2005. The influence of sociocultural factors on body image: A meta-analysis. Clin. Psychol. Sci. Practice, 12: 421-433.
CrossRef  |  

9:  Cohane, G.H. and H.G. Popem, 2001. Bodyimage in bodys: A review of the literature. Int. J. Eating Disorders, 29: 373-379.
Direct Link  |  

10:  Durkin, S.J. and S.J. Paxton, 2002. Predictors of vulnerability to reduced body image satisfaction and psychological wellbeing in response to exposure to idealized female media images in adolescent girls. J. Psychosom. Res., 53: 995-1005.
Direct Link  |  

11:  Duckitt, J., 1992. The Social Psychology of Prejudice. Praeger Publishers, New York.

12:  Dusinger, I.M., 1998. The frankfurter body concept scales. manual with validation studies. Gotingen: Hogrefe.

13:  Eisenberg, M., D. Neumark-sztainer and S.J. Paxton, 2006. Five year change in body satisfaction among adolescents. J. Psychosom. Res., 61: 521-527.
Direct Link  |  

14:  Grogan, S., 1999. Body Image: Understanding Body Dissatisfaction in Men, Women and Children. Routledge, London.

15:  Heinberg, L.J. and J.K. Thompson, 1992. Social comparison: Gender, target, importance ratings and relation to body image disturbance. J. Soci. Behavior Personality, 7: 335-344.
Direct Link  |  

16:  Halliwell, E. and H. Dittmar, 2003. A qualitative investigation of womens and mens body image concerns and their attitudes towards aging. Sex Roles, 49: 675-684.
Direct Link  |  

17:  Jones, D.C., T.H. Vigfusdottir and Y. Lee, 2004. Body image and the appearance culture among adolescent girls and boys: An examination of friend conversations, peer criticism, appearance magazines and the internalization of appearance ideals. J. Adolescent Res., 19: 323-339.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

18:  Jones, D.C., 2004. Body image amongadolescent girls and bodys: A longitudinal study. Dev. Psychol., 40: 823-835.
Direct Link  |  

19:  Keery, H., P. Van den Berg and J.K. Thompson, 2004. A test of the tripartite influence model of body image and eating disturbance in adolescent girls. Body image: Int. J. Res., 1: 237-251.
Direct Link  |  

20:  Kostanski, M., A. Fisher and E. Gullone, 2004. Current conceptualization Of body image dissatisfaction: Have we got it wrong. J. Child Psychol. Psychiatry, 45: 1317-1325.
Direct Link  |  

21:  Lewis, R.J., T.F. Cash, L. Jacobi and C. Bubb-Lewis, 1997. Prejudice toward fat people: The development and validation of the antifat attitudes test. Obesity Res., 5: 297-307.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

22:  Mckinley, N.M., 1999. Women and objectified body consciousness: Mothers' and daughters' body experience in cultural, developmental and familial context. Dev. Psychol., 35: 760-769.
CrossRef  |  

23:  McCabe, M. and L.A. Ricciardelli, 2003. Sociocultural influences on body image and body changes among adolescent boys and girls. J. Social Psychol., 143: 5-26.
Direct Link  |  

24:  Muth, G.L. and T.F. Cash, 1997. Body-image attitudes: What difference does gender make. J. Applied Social Psychol., 27: 1438-1452.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

25:  Narring, T., A. Schumper, L. Inderwildi, A. Jeannin and V. Addor et al., 2004. Smash Swiss multicenter adolescent study on health 2002. Schlussbericht. Bern, Switzerland: Institut fur Psyehologie.

26:  Paxton, S.J., M.E. Eisenberg and D. Neumark-sztainer, 2006. Prospective predictors of body dissatisfaction in adolescent girls and bodys :A five year longitudinal study. Dev. Psychol., 42: 888-899.
Direct Link  |  

27:  Presnell, K., S.K. Bearman and E. Stice, 2004. Risk factors for body Dissatisfaction in adolescent boys and girls: A prospective study. Int. J. Eating Disorders, 36: 389-401.
Direct Link  |  

28:  Rumsey, N., 2002. Optimizing Body Image in Disfiguring Congenital Conditions: Surgical and Psychosocial Interventions. In: Body Image: A Handbook of Theory, Research and Clinical Practice, Cash, T. and T. Pruzinsky (Eds.). Guilford Press, New York, pp: 431-440.

29:  Ricciardelli, L.A. and M.P. McCabe, 2001. Children's body image concerns and eating disturbance: A review of the literature. Clin. Psychol. Rev., 21: 325-344.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

30:  Smolak, L., P.M. Leveing and K. Thompson, 2001. The use of the Socio cultural attitudes towards appearance questionnaire with middle school boys and girls. Int. J. Eating Disorders, 29: 216-223.
Direct Link  |  

31:  Smolak, L. and J.A. Stein, 2006. The relationship of drive for muscularity to socio cultural factors, self-esteem, physical attributes gender role and social comparison in middle school bodys. Body Image, 3: 121-129.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

32:  Stice, E. and K. Whitenton, 2002. Risk factors for body dissatisfaction in adolescent girls: A longitudinal investigation. Dev. Physiol., 38: 669-678.
Direct Link  |  

33:  Strahan, E.J., A.E. Wilson, K.E. Cress Man and V.M. Buote, 2006. Comparing to perfection: How cultural norms for appearance affect social comparison and self-image. Body Image, 3: 211-227.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

34:  Tiggemann, M. and A.S. Pickering, 1996. Role of television in adolescent women's body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness. Int. J. Eating Disorders, 20: 199-203.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

35:  Thompson, J.K., M.D. Coovert and S.M. Stormer, 1999. Body image, social comparison, and eating disturbance: A covariance structure modeling investigation. Int. J. Eating Disorders, 26: 43-51.
CrossRef  |  

36:  Thompson, J.K., L.J. Heinberg and S. Tantleff, 1991. The physical appearance comparison scale (PACS). Behavior Therapist, 14: 174-174.

37:  Wardle, J. and I. Marsland, 1990. Adolescent concerns about weight and eating: A social-developmental perspective. J. Psychosomatic Res., 34: 377-391.
CrossRef  |  

38:  Wiseman, V., J.J. Gray, J.E. Mosimann and A.H. Ahrens, 1992. Cultural expectations of thinness in women: An update. Int. J. Eeating Disorders, 11: 86-89.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

39:  Wills, T.A., 1981. Downward comparison principles in social psychology. Physiol. Bull., 90: 245-271.
CrossRef  |  Direct Link  |  

40:  Wilksch, S.M., M. Tiggemann and T.D. Wade, 2006. Impact of interactive school-based media literacy lessons for reducing internalization of media ideals in young adolescent girls and boys. Int. J. Eating Disorders, 39: 385-393.
PubMed  |  Direct Link  |  

41:  Cash, T.F., 1990. The Psychology of Physical Appearance: Aesthetics Attributes Andimag. In: Bodyimages, Cash, T. and T. Pruzinsky (Eds.). Guilford Press, New York, pp: 51-79.

42:  Major, B., M. Testa and W.H. Bylsma, 1991. Responses to Upward and Downward Social Comparisons: The Impact of Esteem-Relevance and Perceived Control. In: Social Comparison: Contemporary Theory and Research, Suls, J. and T.A. Wills (Eds.). Erlbaum: Hillsdale, New Jersey, pp: 237-260.

43:  Fallon, A., 1999. Culture in the Mirror: Socio Cultural Determinants of Body Image. T. Cash Development, Deviance and Change, USA..

©  2021 Science Alert. All Rights Reserved