Impact of Television on the Perception of Body Image by Male Children

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Lewis, Janine
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The study aimed to explore the impact of television on perceptions of body image in male children. Focus group methodology was employed in order to access participants’ perceptions of two television programs, and explore whether young children are able to differentiate between themes and messages presented within television programming and the extent to which they are able to select, process, and evaluate the information. Five African-Canadian males, age’s seven to nine from the Dartmouth Boys and Girls Club in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia viewed 10 minute clips from two age appropriate television programs which displayed different themes (educational vs. teen comedy) and then participated in the focus group. The participants in this study offered insight and information regarding their level of awareness with regard to selected television themes and messages. The participants demonstrated an understanding of the main themes (educational vs. teen comedy) presented within the television shows. Older participants (age 9) exhibited some awareness of the rehearsed fantasy of television whereas the younger participants (age 7) believed that most things portrayed on television were real. Overall, the participants described characters with larger body shapes as “different” yet not necessarily negative. Although these young boys demonstrated an awareness of extreme body types, they did not appear to possess an association between body size and negative body image, but expressed the insignificance of body size and attractiveness in relation to popularity. This suggests that although the boys were able to distinguish between body size and type, their cognition may not yet be developed to allow for a complete awareness of the association between body size and negative body image. Thus, the framework of 8 unrealistic body shape expectations may unknowingly be set in childhood, but it is not until later in adolescence (which includes physical growth, onset of puberty, and increased importance of peer relationships and peer pressure), that the incentives for a change in behavior becomes great enough and the full impact of negative body image occurs.
Psychological aspects , Children , Television , African-Canadians , Attitudes , Males , Boys , Public opinion , Nova Scotia , Body image