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A multi-method exploration of the culture of weight consciousness in an all-girls’ school

Carey, R.N. (2008) A multi-method exploration of the culture of weight consciousness in an all-girls’ school. In: Appearance Matters 3, 1-2 July 2008, Bristol, United Kingdom


Background: Schools, and particularly all-girls’ schools, have commonly been thought to be places where a culture surrounding weight consciousness may exist. This culture is also likely to be influenced by external factors, including familial and media influences. Methods: This study investigates such a culture in a private all-girls’ school in Western Australia, using a mixed methods design. Surveys comprising both qualitative and quantitative questions were distributed to a total of 115 students, parents and teachers, and follow-up interviews were conducted with nine students. Additionally, two focus group interviews were conducted with a total of nine staff members, and school documents, including newsletters and information available on the school’s website, were collected. Findings: The results suggest that students, parents and teachers are aware of the role of the school environment in both contributing to and maintaining a culture of weight consciousness. Particular attention was paid to the role of peers and, to a lesser degree, staff members, as well as to the contribution of familial and media influences. In addition, significant relationships were found between the overall perceived importance of appearance and thinness in the school environment and that in society as a whole, as well as between student’s weight concerns and their perceptions of the importance of thinness in the school environment. Finally, the results also suggest that the school’s informal culture may not necessarily reflect the formal values it promotes. Discussion: This has important implications for the prevention of and intervention into such problems within the school environment.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology
Publisher: University of the West of England, Bristol
Copyright: No evidence of copyright restrictions on website
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