Literature Review of Media Messages to Adolescent Females

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Literature Review of Media Messages to Adolescent Females
Debbie Naigle
Graduate Student
Educational Communications and Technology
University of Saskatchewan
February, 2005
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Abstract
Research shows that media play a dominant role in influencing females’ perceptions of the world around them, as well as helping them to define their sense of self. This paper examines the influence that media has on adolescent females’ feelings towards their place in society, sexuality, self-esteem and body image. Areas for future research and possible solutions to some of the problems mentioned are also addressed. Time of Adolescence

Adolescence can be a confusing and unsettling time for young adults. Changes to their bodies, their interests, and their social relationships cause them to question who they are and how they fit into the dynamic and confusing world around them. They question their place in their family, with their friends, with their teachers, and with others around them. This is a time of increased self-awareness, self-identity, self-consciousness, preoccupation with image, and concern with social acceptance (Slater & Tiggemann, 2002). Adolescents are trying to discover and solidify their senses of self and their roles in society. Adolescence can be a period marked by severe psychological and emotional stresses (Durham, 1999). It is during this time that gender identities, values of self worth, and sexual attitudes become topics of relentless and serious contemplation. Adolescents are moving from childhood into adulthood. They want to understand their new roles, their new ideas, and their new feelings. This exploration of self and new found independence can result in feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Now while these changes are occurring in both males and females, it has been found that females experience a more difficult time with this transition than males (Block & Robins, 1993). Adolescent girls are more apt to experience decreased feeling of attractiveness and self-esteem. Girls are more likely to feel ashamed and distressed by the changes in their body and appearance. They become more insecure and self-aware of the changes that occur. Boys, however, find the progression of adolescence to be a more positive and reassuring time. They tend to experience improved feelings of body satisfaction and self-assurance. While both are increasing in size and changing in shape, boys welcome this change and girls dread it. Adolescence is a time of extreme introspection. And more than their male counterparts, females look to media to help them define and explain the world around them (Polce-Lynch, Myers, Kliewer, and Kilmartin, 2001). Females seeking information about their current developmental tasks will take that information from any available source (Granello, 1997). Mass media is one of the main resources to which they turn. Media

Media is a pervasive and ever present entity in the lives of North Americans. It is a strong influence for constructing meaning in our everyday lives. Social Comparison Theory posits that “people will [at some point in their lives] compare themselves and significant others to people and images whom they perceive to represent realistic goals to attain” (Botta, 1999, p. 26). We look to the media to help us define, explain, and shape the world around us. Without always knowing it, we make automatic comparisons of ourselves, those close to us, and situations in our lives after seeing images in the media. And as a result, after these comparisons we are motivated to strive for, and achieve, new found goals and expectations. Adolescents, because they haven’t reached the cognitive level to critically analyze and determine reasonable levels of realistic goals, are more vulnerable to media images (Hargreaves & Tiggemann, 2003). They are more likely to take at face value all images and scenarios portrayed in the media. Because they...
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