While the media exaggerates that only thin people are beautiful, this is an issue that causes many adolescents to worry about their looks on a daily basis. With the views of the world around them, these adolescents, predominantly females and homosexual males, believe that any excess weight gain means that they are not beautiful to societies standard and that everyone is looking at and talking about them. While adolescents view beauty as being extremely thin, it seems that many females and gay males tend to have a high focus on their body image.
Looking at society and various cultures in our society and without further studies, it is my belief that late-developing adolescent males have a higher probability of being homosexual and focusing on body image more so that early-developing males. In the Berkeley Longitudinal Study (Santrock, 2007; Jones, 1965), late-maturing adolescents seem to perceive themselves less positively and less successful than their peers. This could be a key factor in the developmental view of ones self.
While it is not verified through research, it is my opinion that the issue of body image not only is highly focused by the media, but as adolescence is occurring, the control of passions in the prefrontal cortex may hinder the adolescent mind in its view of body image. Although brain structure may not be to blame for this adolescent concern, it is a possibility as long as the prefrontal cortex is not adequately developed.
As adolescents grow in their cognitive thinking and may have matured completely into the Piagetian Formal Operational Stage, as long as the adolescent has the overwhelming egocentrism that everyone is looking at them and the inductive reasoning that they must be thin in order to be a beautiful person. I believe that they will not be able to properly grow into Erikson’s Intimacy vs. Isolation stage mentally as they grow older for this reason. This is a challenge for many adolescents, primarily females and homosexual males. As long as ones view of themselves as “less than” all of their peers, it will be a difficult challenge to grow out of the fourth and fifth psychosocial stages of Industry vs. Inferiority and Identity vs. Confusion. This also ties in with Vygotstky’s theory of social and cultural interaction.
As an adolescent of the 1980’s, there was a fairly large standard put on people that thin was the only way to be beautiful. I personally had a problem with wanting to be thin all the time. When I was entering my senior year of high school, I was six foot four inches tall and weighed only 160 pounds. I was still feeling that I needed to be thinner than I was. I was wearing a size 32 jeans and yet I felt that I needed to be in a size 30, which was the smallest size jean they made for young men in 1989. Because of my personal obsession that everyone was looking at me, and always thinking I needed to stay super thin, I had actually started to become anorexic and bulimic. Although I battle with my weight today and feel that I must still be thin, preferably in a size 34, I realize that there is also that point where a person can actually be too thin, what many of the young gay community thinks of as a twink, wearing a pair of size 26 or 28 jeans.
Over the last twenty years, I have noticed that just in the women’s clothing sizes everything is different now from the late 1980’s. In one article found online by Boston.com news, one lady said that when she was in high school she was a size eight and today she is a size zero, although she has gained 15 pounds over the last 15 years (Jackson, 2006). Even when I was working for Gottschalk’s back in 2001, I worked next to the young women’s department and noticed that there were even sizes that went down to a size double zero. In another article that I found online, one retailer states that today “size 00 is just the latest proof of “vanity sizing,” (Gallego, 2006). This concept of vanity sizing puts a very heavy feeling on people; especially adolescents that they need to remain thin to be beautiful.
In Conclusion, while adolescence is a time of change and confusion for many, it is clear that social and cultural interaction can lead to the detrimental idea that beauty is “being extremely thin.” Unfortunately, many times this leads to destructive eating disorders like bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. Although these can regrettably be brought on by an adolescent’s epigenetic view, it is my belief that ones automaticity will be delayed in this area of reasoning. Further, it is my opinion that the media not only needs to be censored for their language and violence, but they also should be banned from exploiting that extreme thinness is the only way that you will be liked or loved more than 45 percent in advertising and 40 percent in television and film.