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Publication Date


Document Type

Honors Project




Eating disorders in women, Mass media-Psychological aspects, Mass media-Social aspects, Body image in women, Feminist psychology, Internalization, Somesthesia, Disordered eating, Feminist consciousness, Internalization of the thin ideal, Self-objectification, Body image, Superwoman ideal


This study presents and tests a model of disordered eating symptomatology informed by four theories of mass media's influence on body image: cultivation theory, uses and gratifications theory, social comparison theory, and self-objectification theory. From these theories, I presented a model to explain disordered eating using mass media exposure, internalization of the thin ideal, self-objectification, and body dissatisfaction. Adherence to the superwoman ideal was also included in the model, and it was hypothesized that feminist consciousness would moderate the path between media exposure and internalization. A path analysis was performed to examine the relationships among these variables. Two separate samples were used in this study, one consisting of 270 students from a small, liberal arts women's college, and the other consisting of 113 women recruited from the comments sections of popular websites. The resulting model was validated in both samples and provided evidence for a model showing pathways from media exposure through internalization to surveillance, body dissatisfaction, and ultimately disordered eating. The model also shows a correlation between media exposure and adherence to the superwoman ideal, which in turn was related to internalization and self-objectification. Although feminist consciousness was not found to moderate any path of this model, this study provides evidence that some sociocultural views about women (namely adherence to the superwoman ideal and self-identification as a feminist) are related to disordered eating. Results of this study also provide evidence for a model of disordered eating development that incorporates a variety of behaviors and attitudes.




50 p. Honors project-Smith College, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 35-38)