When it comes to body image, cultural differences matter. A study by YouthBeat’s showed that African-American youth, for example, have far more positive body images than their Hispanic or Caucasian peers. Nearly half (48 percent) of those in the survey group “strongly agree” with the statement that they are happy with the way they look, compared to 33 percent of Hispanic youth and 30% of Caucasian youth.
A slim majority of young people are “happy with the way [they] look, however, body image confidence plummets in Hispanic boys when they reach age 14. On the other hand Hispanic girls seem to have a better view of their physical appearance and that only improves with age. The survey was fielded among a nationally representative sample of children in first through 12th grades.
That sentiment, however, shifts substantially among age groups: While 30 percent of tweens (grades five through eight) are happy with their appearance, only 18 percent of teens (grades nine through 12) feel the same way. And while self-image is typically believed to be a larger concern among girls, boys are not immune to this issue: Only 35 percent of the boys in the survey group strongly agree that “I feel happy with the way I look.”
“Young people are faced with conflicting messages. On one hand, they’re being asked to be vigilant about their weight. On the other, they’re being told that they should accept themselves and their appearance,” said Amy Henry, vice president of Youth Insights at C&R Research.
Henry suggested that the findings raise the issue of how adults can effectively communicate the idea of being healthy without glorifying thinness. “What‘s especially challenging is that youths can be inclined toward extremes, and might feel more conflicted than they feel communicated with,” Henry added.