The effects of television on the social construction of body images by five- and six-year-old girls
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Jeremy H. Lipschultz
Television images influence individuals (Elliott and Slater, 1980). Cognitive learning theory suggests that during the first five to six years of life, children’s behavior patterns will be set (Donohue, 1975). Television has the potential to be a positive influence on learning. However, typical American media and television have been a negative influence on most children (Williams, 1981).
A 1996 study reported thirty-nine-point-one percent of first graders do not like their appearance and would change their looks, given the opportunity. It has been suggested the mass media are responsible and have taught children fat is bad and thin is good (Flannery-Schroeder and Chrisler, 1996).
Research has also found this to be true in adult women. Watching thirty minutes or more of television programming and advertisements a day may alter a woman’s body image. Meyers and Biocca (1992) suggested that media feature thinner women, creating a thinner social ideal, which is unrealistic for most women.
The purpose of this study was to determine how television might affect the body image of five- and six-year-old girls. Based on the theory of social construction of
reality, it was suggested that girls who are exposed to attractive female television personalities will want to be attractive themselves, as they would like to receive the same positive attention. This study was unable to support that television exposure leads to a negative body image in girls of this age.
This study does suggest that girls of this age tend to have a low level of body image awareness. Daily life experiences seem to be more of an influence at this age than television. It is not to say that girls of this age are not affected by the mass media. Perhaps interviews were not the appropriate methodology. It is also possible media do not influence girls of this age as the researcher suggested.
The pilot study sample was self-selected, a very limited sample size, and may not be representative of the entire population of girls this age.
Gruidl, Kristine M., "The effects of television on the social construction of body images by five- and six-year-old girls" (2001). Student Work. 260.