The effects of self-deception and family environment on the internalization of societal standards of thinness
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The influential role of sociocultural variables on women's body dissatisfaction and disturbed eating behavior has been well documented. In particular, exposure to thinness norms has been argued to play a primary role in the etiology of these disturbances. Previous research has found that internalization of these thin-ideal body standards mediates the relationship between exposure to thinness norms, body dissatisfaction, and disturbed eating behavior. This current study was conducted to replicate and expand research by identifying personality and familial factors hypothesized to be protective against internalization of the thin ideal. Participants, 232 undergraduate female women completed measures assessing familial and personality factors and the degree of awareness and internalization. Familial factors included family preoccupation with weight and appearance and general family dysfunction. We also wanted to determine if the personality factor, self-deceptive enhancement serves as a protective factor against internalization of the thin ideal. Self-deceptive enhancement is an unconscious tendency to report positively biased self-descriptions which the respondent believes to be true. Self-deceptive enhancement has been linked to indices of positive adaptation such as increased self-efficacy, self-esteem, and mental health. Regression analyses suggested that self-deceptive enhancement and family preoccupation with weight and appearance moderated the relationship between the awareness of thinness norms and the internalization of them. Higher levels of self-deceptive enhancement were associated with a diminished relationship between awareness and internalization. Also, lower levels of family emphasis on weight and appearance were associated with a weaker relationship between awareness and internalization. These findings indicate that self-deceptive enhancement as well as lower levels of family preoccupation with weight may be important protective factors in the internalization of thinness norms, thus protecting from body image dissatisfaction and eating disorder symptoms. These findings suggest that social influence of family and personal attributes may play key roles in internalization of the thin ideal and may protect individuals from body dissatisfaction and eating pathology.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 28-30).
Lee, Melissa Ann (2002). The effects of self-deception and family environment on the internalization of societal standards of thinness. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from