Title page for ETD etd-08142008-170332

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Burger, Inanda
Email inanda.burger@moreleta.co.za
URN etd-08142008-170332
Document Title The primary school girl's perception of body image and the influence thereof on her sense-of-self
Degree MSD
Department Social Work and Criminology
Advisor Name Title
Mrs H Bauling Supervisor
  • sense-of-self
  • body image
  • primary school girl
  • maturing
  • perception
  • middle childhood phase
  • hang-ups
  • weight
  • Gestalt play therapy
  • self concept
Date 2008-04-21
Availability unrestricted

The researcher embarked on this study, as the need was identified to investigate whether girls in primary schools have a realistic body image. The hypothesis was made that pressure from society, the media and parents might have a negative influence on a girl’s body image. The goal of this qualitative study was thus to determine how the primary school girl views her body and the influence this view has on her sense-of-self. It was anticipated that the outcome of the study would equip the researcher and social work colleagues with information that can be used in order to make parents and teachers aware of the pressures children experience and the effect this has on their sense-of-self.

The exploratory study endeavoured to answer the following research questions: How does the primary school girl view her body, and how does this influence her sense-of-self? The objectives for this study were the following:

  • To provide a knowledge base on body image, sense-of-self and the perceptions primary school girls have regarding their bodies, based on a literature review.
  • To use gestalt play therapy techniques to investigate the influence of perceptions regarding body image on the sense-of-self.
  • To investigate primary school girls’ body image by means of an empirical study.
  • To draw conclusions and make recommendations regarding the primary school girl’s perception of body image and the influence thereof on her sense-of-self.

The study was feasible and consent was gained from the parents, respondents and organization where the study was done. The researcher studied with a bursary and costs were therefore covered by this. Eight respondents were selected at the researcher’s discretion by using certain criteria for selection. Care was given in selecting respondents who were representative of girls in the middle childhood phase.

Five themes emerged from the study, namely sensory awareness, body image, the development of body image, the sense-of-self and the link between the sense-of-self and body image. Sub-themes were also identified from these five themes. Two consecutive play therapy sessions were used as data collection methods.

From the empirical findings it is evident that the primary school girl’s perception of body image is largely based on the opinions and feedback from significant others. Self talk and self-statements play an important role in the formation of body image in the primary school girl. The study further indicates that body image has a direct influence on all aspects of the primary school girl’s sense-of-self and that a preoccupation with body size and shape amongst primary school girls is common. All of the respondents had hang-ups with regards to some aspect of their physical bodies, wished that they weighed less and indicated that they would want to change something about their bodies. It thus seems that girls in their middle childhood are particularly vulnerable to having a negative body image.

From the research findings several conclusions and recommendations were made such as professionals needing to be aware of the potential negative impact that the media, peers and parents have on a child’s body image and sense-of-self. The recommendation was further made that professionals should encourage teachers, parents and child care workers to realize that in order for a child to develop a healthy sense-of-self and accept the way she looks, she has to receive positive feedback from significant others in her life.

This study indicates that the primary school girl’s body image is fragile, and that significant others, the media and peers play an important role in the formation of a positive body image in children.

© University of Pretoria 2007

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