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Peer influence good bad and ugly research paper peer influ

Advanced Search Abstract This study explored the use of social comparison appraisals in adolescents' lives with particular reference to enhancement appraisals which can be used to counter threats to the self. Social comparison theory has been increasingly used in quantitative research to understand the processes through which societal messages about appearance influence adolescents' body image. Little is known about the comparison processes used in their daily lives—to whom individuals compare the targeton what individuals compare the attribute and how they compare comparison appraisal.

Based on the analysis of 20 in-depth grounded theory interviews with 12- to 14-year old boys and girls, we suggest that comparison processes are used for the purpose of identity development core category.

Given the opportunity, adolescents spontaneously describe a variety of targets, comparison attributes and comparison appraisals. Peers play an important part in making sense of media images and messages and provide comparison targets themselves. Adolescents are aware of societal standards and pressures and use a range of enhancement appraisals.

The positive impact of these might depend on individual characteristics. Findings suggest that enhancement appraisals might have a protective function and should be considered in designing health promotion and prevention programmes. Introduction Could social comparison theory better inform health promotion and prevention efforts in the area of adolescents' body image perceptions?

In recent years social comparison theory has been increasingly used as a framework to elucidate how media and peer messages might influence individuals' perceptions of their bodies [ 1—5 ] and elements have been incorporated into pilot prevention programmes [ 6—8 ]. Festinger [ 9 ] introduced social comparison theory and suggested that individuals process social information by comparing themselves to establish similarities and differences.

This information might be sought for a purpose or one might be confronted with it [ 10 ]. Depending on the context of the comparison, different comparison appraisals might be employed to deflect threats, learn from others or evaluate one's standing.

A better understanding of the use of comparisons to counter threats might be particularly relevant for prevention of threats to well-being and for health promotion programmes. Asking adolescents not to compare is unlikely to be successful [ 11 ].

During adolescence, a challenging phase of maturation, social comparison provides a means of gathering information about the social world. Adolescents need to develop a sense of personal and social identity and adjust to bodily changes [ 12 ]. The present study aimed to address the following questions to gain a better understanding of adolescents' experiences from their own perspective: What do adolescents compare on?

Whom do adolescents compare to? Social comparison theory Research in the area of social comparison theory has shown that different comparison appraisals might be used depending on the context of the comparison [ 10 ]. Social comparison theory encompasses three types of appraisals: Self-evaluation comparisons are used to gather information about one's own standing in relation to others in terms of attributes, skills and social expectations e. How do my muscles compare to my peers. Self-improvement comparisons are employed to learn how to improve a particular characteristic or for problem solving e.

How could I learn from her to be more attractive [ 10 ]. In times of threat or uncertainty, self-enhancement comparisons protect self-esteem and self-worth and allow the individual to maintain positive views about the self [ 13—15 ]. Self-enhancement mechanisms identified in the research literature encompass discounting information as not relevant to the self and describing the other as inferior or less advantaged on a particular attribute one feels superior on e.

He might be muscular but he has no sense of humour [ 1016 ]. A comparison target perceived as similar or relevant e. Additionally, individuals might naturally choose a different attribute on which to compare than that presented by the researchers and tend to selectively take into account various surrounding dimensions that are relevant to them [ 1920 ]. Social comparison and prevention Research in the area of body image has mainly focused on evaluative comparisons as evaluation is a central dimension of body image [ 21 ].

Treatments for eating disorders and body image dissatisfaction focus on challenging self-evaluations concerned with body shape and weight [ 22 ]. A body of work has established that evaluative comparisons are linked to negative outcomes [ 523—25 ]. For example, Durkin and Paxton [ 23 ] established that evaluative comparisons to idealized female images significantly predicted negative affect in adolescent females. However, not all individuals reacted negatively to media images and messages and of particular interest in terms of prevention is an understanding of why some individuals are not affected [ 26 ].

Less work has gone into identifying the role of peer influence good bad and ugly research paper peer influ aspects of comparisons. Some enhancement comparison processes might be protective and as such have implications for health promotion. Stice and Shaw peer influence good bad and ugly research paper peer influ 27 ] concluded in a meta-analysis that a focus on established risk factors such as idealized media images and building resilience to these pressures at the individual level might be most fruitful.

Programmes that included cognitive interventions to alter maladaptive attitudes produced the most promising effects. Social comparison, media, peers and body image perception A review of the body image research literature suggests that there is limited knowledge of the use of the three different comparison appraisals in everyday lives. Findings suggest that body image dissatisfaction is an increasingly relevant issue for boys with the focus more likely to be on muscularity rather than weight [ 29—31 ].

Peers have been shown to be relevant comparison targets and important in making sense of media messages received [ 33233 ]. Experimental evidence, manipulating mainly evaluative comparison appraisals, has shown that effects of social comparison processes may vary across different ages and for different comparison processes [ 41623293435 ].

For example, positive effects have been found for self-enhancement and self-improvement comparisons [ 16 ]. However, it has been suggested that improvement comparisons could lead to detrimental effects in the long term as these comparisons are based on a focus upon idealized images [ 36 ]. Importance and relevance attached to appearance or internalization of an idealized shape is particularly counterproductive. Research found that negative effects of idealized images on boys and girls are strongest for those with low levels of body satisfaction and high internalization of sociocultural standards [ 242937 ].

These peer influence good bad and ugly research paper peer influ suggest that a better understanding of social comparison processes is crucial for understanding the effects of media images on body dissatisfaction [ 37 ].

Although a considerable body of work on body image in the last few years has focused on social comparison theory and its potential to illuminate the influence of media and peers on body image perception, very little qualitative work has been conducted. Thus, the aims of the present study were to describe the nature of social comparison processes mentioned spontaneously by boys and girls—with a particular focus upon enhancement comparisons.

Methods The most critical requirement of the present study was to capture participants' own perceptions of and reactions to comparison targets. The method selected as most appropriate was a grounded theory approach based on the work of Strauss and Corbin [ 3839 ] and Dey [ 40 ]. Grounded theory focuses on social processes and social context [ 41 ] and is thus especially useful for the study of media.

Although Glaser and Strauss [ 42 ] initially developed the approach to generate theory, it has been modified to accommodate the elaboration and modification of existing theories [ 39 ]. Two schools were approached to collect data from 12- to 14-year old children. The sample was a convenience sample, in that interested participants were identified by teachers. A hierarchical consent procedure was used after institutional ethical approval had been granted.

All received information outlining the nature and purpose of the study. The study topic was introduced as experiences with media with an emphasis on appearance. All interviews were taped and additional notes made. The researcher transcribed the interviews, using guidelines adapted from Poland [ 43 ]. In the quotes included, dots with brackets indicate excluded irrelevant text, while dots without brackets note a pause in the narrative.

Twenty participants volunteered for the study 11 females and 9 males. The interviews took place in a private room in the school setting. Rapport was established through setting a positive tone, seeking information in depth, reflecting on what has been said, and closing the interview on a positive note [ 44 ].

Questions focused on specific themes such as types of media consumed interest in particular sections of magazines, favourite programmes on television and who with and messages received about physical and personal attributes. Questions were open ended and used to guide the interviews in keeping with the grounded theory approach.

New questions were included based on issues emerging in interviews and data analysis. Examples of questions include: What do you like about teen magazines? How do you think magazines influence the way you would like to look? Would you talk with your friends about how people in magazines and on television look? Direct questions about comparisons were only asked towards the end of the interview as research has shown that direct questions might invoke social desirability concerns [ 20 ].

We analysed data based on the grounded theory approach as described by Strauss and Peer influence good bad and ugly research paper peer influ [ 39 ] and Dey [ 40 ]. NVIVo, a computer-aided analytic software package provided facilities to track searching and coding, sort and re-code and write memos.

Collection and interpretation are cyclical, starting with line-by-line coding, which provide the basis for a more in-depth analysis and further data collection, increasing the depth of interpretation. The process is iterative and focuses on the participants' perceptions.

Peer influence good bad and ugly research paper peer influ

The interviews were read line by line, asking sensitizing e. What is happening here? How does what this participant is saying connect to what has been said elsewhere? Coding focused on incidents that demonstrated evidence of comparison appraisals in the data and the targets and attributes under comparison. This was managed by comparing incidents and events in terms of how these give density and variation to the concepts to which they relate [ 39 ].

Saturation was achieved for the sample in terms of sufficient details identified [ 45 ]. Results The aim of this study was to explore social comparisons to idealized media images and messages with a focus on enhancement comparisons by adolescents. Social information is used to define the self and establish norms and boundaries.

Such processes are consistent with the notion that adolescence is a time of transition, when adolescents have to develop the self and shape an identity—defining boundaries and differentiating themselves from others [ 12 ]. In this context, body image is an important aspect of self-representation [ 3 ]. A series of factors were identified as influencing the process of comparison, namely the context in which the comparison occurs, sex and social support networks.

Peers played an important role in making sense of the social information received and also as comparison targets. Social comparison and peers Participants generally indicated that weight and shape did not matter in a close friendship context. I'm not really bothered about it, it does not matter.

Some of my friends are a lot thinner than me but some are bigger, so … Girl, age 13 They also expected friends to have very similar attitudes to themselves and to be reassuring. I'm like yeah, I'm not good-looking, I'm fat, but like in school all my friends are like you look really nice. This solicits reassurance and promotes group affiliation, but also emphasizes the value of thinness.

Girls who do not engage in fat talk might be seen as perceiving themselves as superior or flawless [ 47 ]. Others outside the friendship group might be criticized and teased for their appearance and clothing [ 48 ]. Sometimes, but not really 'cause it's nasty, 'cause they could be talking about us, so.