Surprisingly, peers exert a greater influence on teenaged girls body images than do reed thin models that flash on TV screens, says a new study.
The influence of the media on body image, life satisfaction, and symptoms of eating disorders in teenage girls is hotly debated.
Some experts believe that media influences on body dissatisfaction may extend to symptoms of eating disorders.
Christopher J. Ferguson and colleagues from Texas A and M International University, compared the effects of peers and the media on girls' dissatisfaction, eating disorder symptoms, and satisfaction in general, the Springer's Journal of Youth and Adolescence reports.
To assess exposure to thin ideals in the media, researchers asked 237 young Hispanic girls, aged 10 to 17 years, to name their three favourite TV shows and to rate the attractiveness of the female actresses in those shows, according to Texas statement.
They also assessed their body weight and height, whether or not they had feelings of inferiority in response to other girls (peer competition), and how often they used social media.
The girls were then asked how they felt about their bodies, whether they had any eating disorder symptoms, and how satisfied they were, overall, with their lives.
Six months later, the researchers repeated these measures in 101 teenage girls from the initial group.
On the whole, neither TV exposure to thin ideals nor social media use predicted body dissatisfaction, whereas peer competition did.
Similarly, TV exposure and social media use did not predict eating disorder symptoms.
The authors concluded: "Our results suggest that only peer competition, not television or social media use, predict negative outcomes for body image. This suggests that peer competition is more salient to body and eating issues in teenage girls."