Testing a mediation model of parental bonds, attachment anxiety, media internalization, and body dissatisfaction in a female adolescent and young adult sample.
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Patton, Sarah C.
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Body image dissatisfaction emerges disturbingly early in females, as young as age 5 for some girls. During adolescence, body dissatisfaction predicts numerous adverse outcomes, including depression, suicide attempts, and disordered eating. Lamentably, the developmental trajectory of body image dissatisfaction is unclear; the literature needs an integrative etiological model to explain how developmental risk factors interface with sociocultural pressures. I investigated the role of parent-child bonds, friendship and romantic attachment anxiety, and media internalization in promoting body dissatisfaction. I recruited females ages 12-24 from a mid-sized religious university, a small religious school grades 5-12, and four religious youth groups in a southern city to complete self-report measures. The participant sample was ethnically diverse, with approximately 40% endorsing non-White ethnic status. Results showed that mother care and father care were negatively linked to friendship attachment anxiety. Father care was negatively linked to romantic attachment anxiety. Friendship and romantic attachment anxiety were positively linked to media internalization. Media internalization was positively linked to body image dissatisfaction. Mother care and father care were negatively, indirectly linked to body image dissatisfaction through the mediators of attachment anxiety and media internalization. Mother care made a significant, albeit small contribution to body image dissatisfaction after controlling for other variables. I interpreted the results within the framework of Cheng and Mallinckrodt (2009), who proposed that poor quality parental bonds, via the mechanisms of heightening romantic attachment anxiety and media internalization, increase body dissatisfaction. Furthermore, a modified model in which friendship attachment anxiety replaced romantic attachment anxiety provided an even better theoretical fit. My findings may help bridge a critical gap in the literature between developmental and sociocultural conceptualizations of body dissatisfaction. Additionally, my findings suggest that attachment-focused therapies may prevent and reduce media internalization and body image problems among female youth.