Socializing Girls Whose Bodies May Not Align with Contemporary Ideals of Thinness: An Interpretive Study of Mothers

Date
2017-01-01
Authors
Ogle, Jennifer
Park, Juyeon
Reddy-Best, Kelly
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Abstract

We sought to understand how mothers of young adolescent girls who are perceived as overweight or at risk for becoming so and whose body mass indices are at the 70th percentile or higher socialize their daughters about body, weight, diet, and health. In-depth interviews were conducted with 13 mothers. Data were analyzed using constant comparison processes. Findings revealed that mothers adopted a variety of strategies – including teaching, modeling, managing, avoiding, and comforting – to achieve varied socialization goals for their daughters. Specifically, mothers sought to help their daughters to accept the self, reject the hegemonic ideal, maintain a "healthful" diet, avoid overeating/police the self for over-eating, engage in regular physical activity, and navigate stigmatizing social situations. Mothers' sometimes experienced ambivalence as they socialized their daughters about the body; this conflict seemed to stem from anxiety about how to parent their daughters within a culture laden with discourses stigmatizing larger bodies.

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