Contextual Behavioral Approaches to Understanding Body Image Threats and Coping in Youth: A Qualitative Study

Anna L. Brichacek, Kristen Murray, James T. Neill, Elizabeth Rieger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Adolescence involves significant developmental changes and challenges including heightened body image concerns. However, there is limited research on adaptive ways of responding to perceived threats to body image. This study uses body image flexibility, derived from contextual behavioral perspectives, and coping theories to explore young people’s responses to body image threats. High school and university students (12 male, 15 female) aged 12 to 24 years were recruited from educational institutions in a metropolitan area of Australia. Thematic analysis of semistructured interviews identified themes related to body image threats from internal and external sources. In response to these threats, young people reported coping by changing the content of, and how they related to, perceived threats, and seeking social support. In addition, young people viewed coping as a dynamic process that changed over time and across situations. Reported processes of attending to, and allowing, momentary negative experiences and connecting with other important life domains were consistent with body image flexibility. The coping context affected the selection of coping strategies, with body image flexibility facilitating more adaptive coping for some participants. Further investigation of contextual behavioral approaches, such as body image flexibility, could help to better understand and promote adaptive body image coping in youth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-33
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Adolescent Research
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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