For a long time it has been believed that television, movies, magazines and popular media has huge influence on teenage body image. Now, studies have shown that peer pressure is actually more at fault for creating negative body image that affects the self-esteem of teenagers. Just like other activities – smoking, alcohol consumption or drugs – teenagers identify with their peers when it comes to their body image, eating habits and physical activities.
Peer pressure and body image is a relatively new study. However, studies done so far show those teenage girls who starve themselves to become thin are trying to meet the standards set by other girls in their circle of friends or school. Psychologist Eleanor Mackey of the Children’s National Medical Center has carried out a study on eating habits of teenage girls and boys. She found out that over 5% of teenage boys and girls suffer from eating disorders. These unhealthy tendencies make teens bulimic, anorexic and ironically sometimes, obese. Also, courtesy to our country’s fast food culture and unhealthy eating habits, 16% of teens in the United States are obese. These children often see binge eating or taking comfort food as a solution to stress.
Among teenage girls, peer pressure works like fuel on fire. The desire to look pretty and thin increases dramatically when they see popular girls being ‘worshipped’ by school kids and most good looking guys trying really hard to go on a date with them. They would starve their bodies, wear high heels despite having excruciating pain in feet, use make-up, change hairdo; in short, they will do everything that will make them one of the popular girls in school. If neither of these tactics work, they will end up making friends with popular girls to look cool. This is caused by their inability to appreciate their body and being comfortable with their body image.
Boys are no different in their attitude when it comes to their insecurities with their body image. During their teenage years, they try to look macho and well-built to give out the image of a man. Boys who are categorized as nerds or geeks are considered losers among peers. This leads to depression, eating disorders and use of alcohol and drugs. Most of the times, suffering from low self-esteem, teenage boys end up using steroids and other drugs and cause irreversible damage to their bodies.