Objectification theory is a suitable framework for understanding how media pressure is translated into behavioural and emotional risk factors, potentially promoting eating and body-related disturbances among women. A large body of research conducted with American and Australian female samples support the tenets of this theory. The present study extending previous work by investigating the internalization of sociocultural standards of beauty promoted by media as an antecedent of the body objectification process and by examining the theory’s applicability in a sample of Italian women.
A cross-sectional design was used. A sample of 408 young Italian women completed questionnaire measures of internalization of media ideals, disordered eating behaviours, as well as the proposed mediating variables of body surveillance, body shame and social anxiety. Path analysis procedures within the Mplus program were used to determine whether the hypothesized theoretical model provided a good fit to the data. Bias-corrected bootstrapping method was used to estimate the significance of the indirect effects.
The pattern of correlations is consistent with the objectification theory (Table I). Path analysis indicated that internalization of media ideals leads to body surveillance, which in turn leads to body shame and social anxiety, which both strongly predict women’s disordered eating behaviours (Fig. 1). Body surveillance mediated the links of internalization to body shame and social anxiety. Social anxiety was an additional mediator of the link between body surveillance and disordered eating behaviours, whereas body shame mediated the links of internalization and body surveillance to disordered eating behaviours (Table II).
The objectification theory provides a useful framework to identify predictors of disordered eating behaviours in women. Practical implications are discussed.