Graduate calls for better education around body image

"As a whole, we all need to be less judgemental of ourselves and others, we need to empower one another and take importance away from appearance."

Emily Griffiths, BSc (Hons) Psychology

A psychology graduate is calling for better education in schools around body image and appearance.

Emily Griffiths, 21 from Newcastle-Under-Lyme, studied BSc (Hons) Psychology at Staffordshire University and researched body image in the Girlguiding community for her final year dissertation.

Emily, who has been involved with Girlguiding since she was five, explained: “Personally I've had body image issues. I'm now an adult leader in the Girlguides and I’ve noticed that some of the girls who are teenagers have body issues.

“They've got absolutely fine bodies, perfectly healthy, so I was interested in finding out how they felt.”

Emily interviewed participants between the ages of 12 and 17 at her Girlguiding group in Chesterton to investigate how they felt about their bodies and what influenced that body image.

Generally, the participants reported having a positive body image however they also identified areas that made them feel negatively about their appearance including parental influence, social media and the media in general.

Emily explained: “The research discovered that most of the participants' negative views of their body image stemmed from others' views - personal comments, social media use and constant subconscious comparison with others all had a long-term effect.

“Overall it turned out that they felt quite fine about their bodies but now I'm interested in knowing if that is because Girlguiding has had a positive influence on them or if I was just lucky to find participants who all had positive body image.”

Emily received a first for the dissertation and with the help of her lecturer Dr Alison Owen the research was published in the British Journal of School Nursing. She now plans to do a Masters degree at Staffordshire University to continue her research.

Emily and Dr Owen also hope that this report can be used in future health promotion in schools, for example through class discussions and sharing information with students about airbrushed or filtered photographs used in the media.

“I think there needs to be more education for both children and adults about the focus on self worth. As a whole, we all need to be less judgemental of ourselves and others, we need to empower one another and take importance away from appearance.

Emily added: “It is great to have had this opportunity. Not many people before they've fully graduated have been accepted for publication in a journal!”

Read the full paper in the British Journal of School Nursing here - Body image: An exploration of a group of Girl guides' thoughts and feelings about their appearance.

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