Does Body Weight Dissatisfaction Change with Age? A Cross-Sectional Analysis of American Women

Ilyssa Siegel


This study explored the relationship between age and body weight dissatisfaction in American women using a cross-sectional approach. A sample of 55 women between the ages of 22 and 65 completed a questionnaire measuring the discrepancy between current and ideal body types, current perceptions of weight, the extent to which weight affected self-concept, and ratings of specific bodily features. The results did not indicate a significant difference in body weight dissatisfaction between young (22-34), middle-aged (35-49), and older (50-65) women. The impact of weight on women’s self-perception did not vary with age. Moreover, dissatisfaction with specific body parts was consistent across age cohorts. Evidence suggests that body weight dissatisfaction among women is pervasive across the lifetime, displaying no significant changes with age. 

Full Text:



Altabe, M., & Thompson, J. K. (1993). Body image changes during early childhood. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 13(3), 323-328.

Andres, R. (1989). Does the “best” body weight change with age? In A. J. Stunkard & A. Baum (Eds.), Perspectives in behavioral medicine: Eat- ing, sleeping, and sex (pp. 99-107). Hillside, NJ: Erlbaum.

Banister, E. M. (1999). Women’s midlife experience of their changing bodies. Qualitative Health Re- search, 9(4), 520-537.

Cash, T. F., & Grasso, K. (2005). The norms of stability of new measures of the multidimensional body image construct. Body Image: An International Journal of Research, 2, 199-203.

Cash, T. F., Phillips, K. A., Santos, M. T., & Hrabosky, J. I. (2004). Measuring “negative body image”: Validation of the body image disturbance questionnaire in a non-clinical population. Body Im- age: An International Journal of Research, 1, 363- 372.

Cooper, P. J., Taylor, M. J., Cooper, Z., & Fairburn, C.G. (1986). The development and validation of the Body Shape Questionnaire. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 6, 485-494.

Davison, K. K., Markey, C. N., & Birch, L. L. (2000). The etiology of body dissatisfaction and weight concerns among 5-year olds. Appetite, 35, 143- 151.

Davison, K. K., Markey, C. N., & Birch, L. L. (2003). A longitudinal examination of patterns in girls’ weight concerns and body dissatisfaction from ages 5 to 9 years. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 33(3), 320-332.

Dittmar, H. (2009). How do “body perfect” ideals in the media have a negative impact on body image and behaviors? Factors and processes related to self and identity. Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, 28(1), 1-8.

Dohnt, H. K., & Tiggemann, M. (2005). Peer influences on body dissatisfaction and dieting awareness in young girls. The British Journal of Develop- mental Psychology, 23, 103-116.

Fabian, L. J., & Thompson, J. K. (1989). Body image and eating disturbance in young females. Inter- national Journal of Eating Disorders, 8(1), 63-74.

Fallon, A. E., & Rozin, P. (1985). Sex differences in perceptions of desirable body shape. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 94, 102-105.

Ferraro, F. R., Muehlenkamp, J. J., Painter, A., Wasson, K., Hager, T., & Hoverson, F. (2008). Aging, body image, and body shape. Journal of General Psychology, 135(4), 379-392.

Feingold, A., & Mazzella, R. (1998). Gender differences in body image are increasing. Psychological Science, 9(3), 190-195.

Field, A. E., Camargo, C. A., Taylor, C. B., Berkey, C. S., Frazier, A. L., Gillman, M. W., Colditz, G. A. (1999). Overweight concerns, and bulimic behaviors among girls and boys. Journal of the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, 38(6), 754-760.

Flannery-Schroeder, E. C., & Chrisler, J. C. (1996). Body esteem, eating attitudes, and gender-role orientation in three age groups of children. Current Psychology, 15, 235-248.

Furnham, A., Badmin, N., & Sneade, I. (2002). Body image dissatisfaction: Gender differences in eat- ing attitudes, self-esteem, and reasons for exercise. The Journal of Psychology, 136(6), 581-596.

Garner, D. M., Garfinkel, P. E., Schwartz, D., & Thompson, M. (1980). Cultural expectations of thinness in women. Psychological Reports, 47, 483-491.

Garner, D. M., Olmstead, M. P., & Polivy, J. (2006). Development and validation of a multidimensional eating disorder inventory for anorexia nervosa and bulimia. International Journal of Eating Dis- orders, 2, 15-34.

Garrow, J. S., & Webster, B. S. (1985). Quetlet’s Index (W/H2) as a measure of fatness. International Journal of Obesity, 9, 147-153.

Graber, J. A., Brooks-Gunn, J., Paikoff, R. L., & Warren, M. (1994). Prediction of eating problems: An 8-year study of adolescent girls. Developmental Psychology, 30, 823-834.

Gullone, E., & Kostanski, M. (1998). Adolescent body image dissatisfaction: Relationships with self-esteem, anxiety, and depression controlling for body mass. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry & Allied Disciplines, 39(2), 255-262.

Hawkins, N., Richards, P. S., Granley, H. M., & Stein, D. M. (2004). The impact of exposure to the thin- ideal media image on women. Eating Disorders, 12, 35-50.

Hummert, M. L, Garstka, T. A., & Shaner, J. L. (1997). Stereotyping of older adults: The role of target facial cues and perceiver characteristics. Psychology and Aging, 12, 107-114.

Hummert, M. L., Garstka, T. A., Shaner, J. L., & Strahm, S. (1994). Stereotypes of the elderly held by young, middle-aged, and elderly adults. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 49, 240-249.

Irving, L. M. (1990). Mirror images: Effects of the standards of beauty on the self- and body-esteem of women exhibiting varying levels of bulimic symptoms. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 9(2), 230-242.

Keating, C. F. (1985). Gender and the physiognomy of dominancy and attractiveness. Social Psychology Quarterly, 48, 61-70.

Lewis, D. M., & Cachelin, F. M. (2001). Body image, body dissatisfaction, and eating attitudes in midlife and elderly women. Eating Disorders, (9)1, 29-39.

Lokken, K., Ferraro, F. R., Kirchner, T., Bowling, M. (2003). Gender differences in body size dissatisfaction among individuals with low, medium or high levels of body focus. The Journal of General Psychology, 130(3), 305-310.

Lowes, J., & Tiggemann, M. (2003). Body dissatisfaction, dieting awareness and the impact of parental influence in young children. British Journal of Health Psychology, 8, 135-147.

Mangweth-Matzek, B., Rupp, C. I., Hausmann, A., Assmayr, K., Mariacher, E., Kemmler, G., Whit- worth, A. B., Biebl, W. (2006). Never too old for eating disorders or body image dissatisfaction: A community study of elderly women. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 39, 583-586.

Neighbors, L., Sobal, J., Liff, C., Amiraian, D. (2008). Weighing Weight: Trends in body weight evaluation among young adults, 1990 and 2005. Sex Roles, 59, 68-80.

Paxton, S. J., Neumark-Sztainer, D., Hannan, P. J., & Eisenberg, M. E. (2006). Body dissatisfaction prospectively predicts depressive mood and low- self esteem in adolescent girls and boys. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 35(4), 539-549.

Peat, C. M., Peyerl, N. L., Muehlenkamp, J. J. (2008). Body image and eating disorders in older adults: A review. The Journal of General Psychology, 135(4), 343-358.

Pliner, P., Chaiken, S., & Flett, G. L. (1990). Gender differences in concern with weight and physical appearance over the life span. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 16, 263-273.

Polivy, J., & Herman, C. P. (1987). Diagnosis and treatment of abnormal eating. Journal of Consult- ing and Clinical Psychology, 55, 1-10.

Powell, M. R., & Hendricks, B. (1990). Body schema, gender, and other correlates in nonclinical populations. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 125, 333-412.

Rguibi, M., & Belahsen, R. (2006). Fattening practices among Moroccan Saharawi women. Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal, 12(5), 619-624.

Robinson, T. N., Chang, J.Y., Haydel, K. F., & Killen, J. D. (2001) Overweight concerns and body dis- satisfaction among third-grade children: The impacts of ethnicity and socioeconomic status. The Journal of Pediatrics, 138, 181-187.

Rolland, K. Farnill, D. & Griffiths, R. A. (1997). Body figure perceptions and eating attitudes among Australian schoolchildren aged 8 to 12 years. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 21(3), 273-278.

Rozin, P., & Fallon, A. (1988). Body image, attitudes to weight, and misperceptions of figure preferences of the opposite sex: A comparison of men and women in two generations. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 97(3), 342-345.

Sarwer, D. B., Wadden, T.A., & Foster, G. D. (1998). Assessment of body image dissatisfaction in obese women: Specificity, severity and clinical significance. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66(4), 651-654.

Schur, E. A., Sanders, M., & Steiner, H. (2000). Body dissatisfaction and dieting in young children. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 27(1). 74- 82.

Smith, J. E., Waldorf, V. A., & Trembath, D. L. (1990). “Single white male looking for thin, very attractive...” Sex Roles, 23(11-12), 675-685.

Spitzer, B. L., Henderson, K. A., & Zivian, M. T. (1999). Gender differences in population versus media body sizes: A comparison over four decades. Sex Roles, 40, 545-565.

Stevens, C., & Tiggemann, M. (1998). Women’s body figure preferences across the life span. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 159(1), 94-102.

Stice, E., & Bearman, S. K. (2001). Body-image and eating disturbances prospectively predict increases in depressive symptoms in adolescent girls: A growth curve analysis. Developmental Psychology, 37(5), 597-607.

Stice, E., & Shaw, H. E. (2002). Role of body dissatisfaction in the onset and maintenance of eating pathology: A synthesis of research findings. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 53(5), 985-993.

Tiggemann, M. (1992). Body-size dissatisfaction: Individual differences in age and gender, and relationship with self-esteem. Personality and Individual Difference, 13, 39-43.

Tiggemann, M., & Pickering, A. S. (1996). Role of television in adolescent womens’ body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 20(2), 199-203.

Tiggemann, M. (1997). Dieting in moderation: The role of dietary restraint in the relationship between body dissatisfaction and psychological wellbeing. Journal of Health Psychology, 2, 501-507.

Tiggemann, M., & Lynch, J. E. (2001). Body image across the life span in adult women: The role of self-objectification. Developmental Psychology, 37(2), 243-253.

Tiggemann, M. (2005). Body dissatisfaction and adolescent self-esteem: Prospective findings. Body Image, 2(2), 129-135.

Tom, G., Chen, A., Liao, H., & Chao, J. (2005). Body image, relationships and time. The Journal of Psychology, 139(5), 458-468.

Webster, J., & Tiggemann, M. (2003). The relationship between women’s body satisfaction and self-image across the life span: The role of cognitive control. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 164(2), 241-252.

Wertheim, E. H., Koerner, J., & Paxton, S. (2001). Longitudinal predictors of restrictive eating and bulimic tendencies in three different age groups of adolescent girls. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 30, 69-81.

Wilcox, S. (1997). Age and gender in relation to body attitudes: Is there a double standard of aging? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 549-565.

Williamson, D. A., Davis, C. J., Bennett, S. M., Goreczny, A. J., & Gleaves, D. H. (1989). Development of a simple procedure for assessing body image disturbances. Behavioral Assessment, 11, 433-446.

Wiseman, M. A., Gray, J. J., Mosimann, J. E., & Ahrens, A. H. (1992). Cultural expectations of thinness in women: An update. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 11, 85-89.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2017 The New School Psychology Bulletin

© The New School Psychology Bulletin |