Eating Disorders Information (EDI)

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Peer victimisation in early adolescence leads to greater body shame in girls

Posted by a.marlow on October 10, 2012 at 6:05 AM Comments comments (0)

"Objectified body consciousness" is a term invented by feminist psychologists to describe what happens when we start viewing our bodies as objects that exist for other peoples' pleasure and/or judgment rather than for our own enjoyment, as the expression of our own subjectivity. Recent research indicates that peer victimisation at a young age makes us more likely to be ashamed of our bodies and to view them in this objective, judged-by-others way.

A study published last year by Lunde & Frisén tested this hypothesis by giving a sample of 602 Swedish children questionnaires to fill in at ages 10 and 18. They found that "peer victimisation" at age 10 was linked with greater body-monitoring at age 18 for both boys and girls, but that girls were more likely to feel shame about their bodies than boys.

What this means is that being bullied or ostracised in early life for one's appearance can lead to long-term effects, perhaps even after the victimisation has stopped. While it is not clear whether those who suffered "peer victimisation" at age 10 continued to suffer it throughout adolescence, it is reasonable to assume that even among those whose suffering was short-lived, its impact can be long-term.

This study did not look specifically at eating disorders- only at body shame. It is therefore not possible to extrapolate anything from it about whether this increase in body shame led to an increase in eating disorders. However, the message is clear: bullying and ostracisation early in life can still have harmful effects much later on.


Lunde, C & Frisén, A, 2011. "On being victimised by peers in the advent of adolescence: Prospective relationships to objectified body consciousness", Body Image, 8(4), 309-314