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dc.contributor.advisorTreharne, Gareth J
dc.contributor.authorPoulter, Phoebe Isabel
dc.identifier.citationPoulter, P. I. (2017). ‘I’m actually pretty happy with how I am’: A Focus Group Study of Young Women with Positive Body Image (Thesis, Master of Science). University of Otago. Retrieved from
dc.description.abstractPrevious qualitative and quantitative research on the body image of young women in Western cultures has predominantly focussed on the negative dimensions of women’s body image. This pathology-driven approach has contributed to an understanding of body dissatisfaction, but has not considered what contributes to the development and experience of positive body image for young women. In the present study, I aimed to contribute to psychological understanding of positive body image in young women at university using a mixed-methods approach. In the first part of the study, a sample of 139 young women aged between 18 and 25 years completed a series of questionnaires, including a demographic questionnaire, several measures of positive body image, and a measure evaluating the extent to which the young women were aware of, and had internalised, sociocultural messages about women’s bodies. Within the demographic questionnaire, participants were asked to provide a rating of agreement with the statement “I have a positive body image” on a scale from 1 (completely disagree) to 5 (completely agree). Young women who explicitly reported having a positive body image (providing a rating of 4 or more) were invited to participate in a focus group (N = 44, 32% of the initial sample). A total of 19 young women participated in one of five focus group discussions, in which they were asked about their experiences and thoughts about having a positive body image. Focus groups were recorded and transcribed, and underwent inductive thematic analysis. From the analysis, I identified four themes conveyed by women discussing their views about positive body image. The first theme is labelled ‘Body Image as Changing’ and highlights the way in which participants described their body image as becoming more positive as they grow older, and consists of two subthemes: ‘Aging and Caring Less about the Body’ and ‘The Transition from School to University’. The second theme, ‘Mindful Engagement with Media Content’, describes the participants reported pattern of engagement with the media, including three subthemes: ‘Awareness of Messages about the Female Body’, ‘Criticism of the Media’, and ‘Mindful Selection of Media’. The third theme, ‘Conceptualisation and Interpretation of Body- Related Information’, illustrates the way in which young women mentally conceptualised and interpreted events that are related to their bodies, and consisted of two subthemes: ‘Functional Conceptualisation of the Body’ and ‘Responding to Negative Thoughts and Feelings about the Body’. The final theme, ‘The Role of Religious and Cultural Identities in Shaping Body Image’, highlights the way that messages conveyed by religious and cultural ideologies impact the way women experiences their bodies. These findings contribute to understanding of how some women can establish and maintain positive body image, and may be applied in areas of education and clinical psychology. For instance, girls and young women may be educated on the media and taught cognitive strategies to provide a buffer against negative feelings about the body. The present findings may also inform future research, and several suggestions for this are discussed.
dc.publisherUniversity of Otago
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dc.subjectpositive psychology
dc.title“I’m actually pretty happy with how I am”: A Focus Group Study of Young Women with Positive Body Image
dc.language.rfc3066en of Psychology of Science of Otago
otago.openaccessAbstract Only
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