Female conformists likely to have negative body image

Sydney: Young women who conform are more likely than non-conformists to have a negative image of their bodies and show signs of eating disorders, says a new study.

Being a conformist appears to be a risk factor for such disorders, one which necessitates treatment, says Lenny R. Vartanian, psychologist, University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Meghan M. Hopkinson, psychology student at Syracuse University in the US.

The researchers also found that young women who are socially networked are less likely to be conformists and less likely to develop a negative body image or bulimic symptoms.

The study involved 300 American college students with an average age of about 19 years.

Links between social connectedness and conformity and how they relate to an individual`s body image were probed.

The participants were asked about their age, height and weight, then completed a series of questionnaires to assess their social connectedness, conformity, body image concerns, dietary restraint and bulimic symptoms.

"In a general sense, conformity can be seen as an attempt to gain security in a social network," the study says. "People are highly motivated to feel that they belong and having strong social connections is associated with better psychological health, whereas rejection and isolation are associated with poor psychological health," the study says.

The researchers caution that the study represents only a snapshot of female college students, who are known to be a high-risk group for developing body dissatisfaction and disordered eating.

These findings were published in Body Image.


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