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Physical or visual: Girls’ body experiences during sports activities?

Abbott, B.D., Barber, B.L. and Dziurawiec, S. (2013) Physical or visual: Girls’ body experiences during sports activities? In: Australian Human Development Association 18th Biennial Conference, 1-4 July 2014, Gold Coast, Australia.

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Body image is a top concern for many Australian youth, with young females expressing greater concern regarding their body image, and lower body satisfaction than males. Body image, or the perceptions we hold towards our body, has 2 dimensions; functional (what we can do) and aesthetic (how we look). When asked about these two dimensions, adolescents report valuing body function over appearance. Placing greater value on function has been related to greater body satisfaction among females, whereas greater value on appearance has been related to less body satisfaction. Experiencing the body as an aesthetic object can lead girls to feel a sense of body shame, whereas, experiencing physically competence, can lead to a sense of body appreciation. This suggests contexts offering girls an opportunity to focus on functionality may be resources where body image concerns are addressed. The sporting context has the potential to allow girls to experience their functionality, and provide them with sense of physical competence. Although research has established a connection between sports and body image, few have examined the experiences adolescents have with their bodies during sports. The current study explores this link among adolescent girls (N = 1002) aged 13-­‐18 years (M = 14.6, SD = 1.01) from 34 high schools across metropolitan Perth and rural Western Australia. Participants were surveyed on sports participation, experiences of body objectification and physical competence, and body values and satisfaction. Girls’ body experiences were explored across aesthetic and non-­‐aesthetic sporting contexts, and the relation between body image and bodily experiences was explored. Experiences of physical competence were more prevalent than objectifying experiences. Bodily experiences differed between aesthetic and non-­‐aesthetic sports; however, this difference varied with between-­‐person and within-­‐person analyses. Experiences of body objectification were positively related to aesthetic body values. Body satisfaction was predicted by experiences of physical competence.

Publication Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Publisher: Australasian Human Development Association
Copyright: The Author
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