This study investigated the relationships among the individual’s chronological age, personality, perceived social support, appearance schema, appearance appraisal and the resultant coping strategies to overcome body dissatisfaction. Thirty four hypotheses were developed to meet the objectives of this study. The objectives were achieved by conducting two studies. Each of the two studies collected data utilizing both quantitative and qualitative methods of survey and semi structured interviews respectively.
Study 1 tested six hypotheses, investigating the relationship between self esteem, personality, social support and appearance appraisal. The survey included a sample size of 260 female undergraduate students each completing four standardized measures of self esteem, personality, perceived social support and appearance appraisal. The quantitative data were analyzed using multiple regression. The semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 students. The respondents in this study were in the age range of 18-25 years. The multiple regression analysis indicated that self esteem and neuroticism demonstrated significant effect on appearance appraisal. Although the results were inconsistent regarding the moderating effect perceived social support. The semistructured interviews were analyzed by coding the transcribed interviews thematically, and identifying common patterns of behavior, reasons, and expectations of the respondents. The findings from interviews indicated that perceived social support had an influence on how women appraised their appearance. The interviews also illustrated that appraisal of the social environment as stressful or non stressful was dependent to some extent on the individual’s self esteem.
Study 2 tested twenty eight hypotheses, investigating the relationship between age, personality, appearance schema, appearance appraisal and the resultant coping strategies to overcome body dissatisfaction. This survey included a sample size of 277 female respondents in the age range of 18-86 years each completing four standardized measures of personality, appearance schema, appearance appraisal and body image coping strategies. The data analysis of the quantitative data was conducted using path analysis. The semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 women between the ages of 24-65 years. The path analysis showed that neuroticism and age significantly predicted the appearance schema, appearance appraisal and body image coping strategy. The analysis also demonstrated that appearance schema and appearance appraisal mediated the relationship between independent variables (personality and age) and dependent variable (body image coping strategies). The interviews illustrate that women perceptions and behavior towards appearance are defined and modified through individual experiences and events across life.
The findings of Study 1 (utilizing analysis of qualitative and quantitative data) demonstrated that self esteem and Neuroticism significantly and substantively predicted appearance appraisal, whereas the findings related to interaction effect of perceived social support failed to demonstrate significance. The direct effect of perceived social support on appearance appraisal was found to be inconsistent. Nevertheless, findings of Study 2 failed to demonstrated direct effect of Neuroticism on appearance schema and body image strategies. Although significant indirect effects of Neuroticism on the coping strategies through appearance schema, as well as indirect effect of Neuroticism on the coping strategies through appearance appraisal were found. Although the study aimed to test the mediating effect of appearance schema and appearance appraisal, it was found that appearance schema demonstrated both mediating and moderating effect whereas, appearance appraisal demonstrated only mediating effects on the relationship between personality and body image coping strategies. Increase in chronological age was found to have a significant negative relationship with appearance schema. The effect of age on coping strategies demonstrated that increase in age was strongly associated with increase in use of appearance fixing strategy.
This study has implications for the field of social psychology of appearance and personality psychology. The findings of the present study imply that a relationship does exist between self esteem and appearance appraisal, as well as personality traits of neuroticism and appearance appraisal. Hence, the results have implications for counselors to encourage women and their family to emphasize on the protective effect of self esteem that can prevent women from negatively appraising their appearance and use harmful strategies to overcome their body dissatisfaction. Furthermore, in case of future studies investigating the role of personality it would be valuable to investigate the relationship of appearance behavior with individual traits rather than the five factors. We also recommend including self efficacy in studies investigating cohort effect or age effects on appearance related behavior.
Finally for future research it would be valuable to utilize longitudinal designs and a heterogeneous population which will assist in observing if these findings could be generalized to a larger population across U.S.A.