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THE ROLE OF DECEPTIVE ADVERTISING IN THE EATING DISORDERS OF UK TEENAGE GIRLS RESEARCH PROPOSAL PAPER
THE ROLE OF DECEPTIVE ADVERTISING IN THE EATING DISORDERS OF UK TEENAGE GIRLS
Rationale and Contribution
Description of the Topic
During adolescence, dramatic changes in the body occurs (Cramer, Dittman, Dugan, Halliwell, Jacobs & Lloyd, 2000). In this stage, adolescent male and females place more importance to their looks, resulting to a high report of dissatisfaction and disappointment with themselves (Cash, Winstead, & Janda, 1986). Focus is more on other peoples’ evaluation on one’s self and on how to look good (Lapsley, Milstead, Quintana, Flanery, & Buss, 1986). A good example for this is the recent survey in UK about teenage girls and how they view themselves.
According to Bliss Magazine, nine out of ten teenage girls are not happy with their bodies. And although nineteen percent among the girls surveyed were actually overweight, sixty-seven percent believe they needed to shed of some pounds, and sixty-four percent of girls under thirteen years of age had already been on a diet. The survey also said more than a quarter of fourteen year old girls are already considering plastic surgery or taking diet pills. The most alarming was the revelation that almost one-fifth of the surveyed girls are actually suffering from an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia. Most of the girls consider the famous celebrity Britney Spears as having the most ideal body. (CBBC Newsround, 2004)
In relation, a study found out even children as young as seven years old in UK are already unhappy with their body shapes. Scientists fear these children may develop eating disorders in the future. They blame this phenomenon to the body shapes of famous celebrities like the Spice Girls who have skinny bodies. When the scientists asked the children to pick from pictures to describe their own bodies and pictures of bodies that they would like to have, forty-eight percent of the girls have selected thinner bodies than their own as their “ideal bodies”. (BBC, 2004)
Cramer, Dittman, Dugan, Halliwell, Jacobs and Lloyd conducted a research, which aimed “to contribute to [the] understanding of adolescent body image by investigating ideals beyond those of (female) thinness and by comparing the body image of adolescent girls systematically with that of adolescent boys”. The main aims of the study were to examine concerns of adolescents with their body image that is beyond their weight
The study basically produced these findings: “body-image ideals are multidimensional, show systematic gender differences, and become more conventional with age–closer to cultural ideals. Adolescents’ own body mass is linked to body-image preferences, but only with respect to the “ideal woman,” where heavier adolescents of both genders (higher BMI) appear to distance themselves from conventional notions of female beauty.” (Cramer, Dittman, Dugan, Halliwell, Jacobs & Lloyd, 2000, p. 887).
Most probably, these kinds of view of adolescents contribute in the possibility of developing eating disorders. Eating disorder is the condition wherein a person eats, or refuses to eat, to satisfy not a physical need but a psychic need. (Palme, 2003) The Eating Disorder Association (EDA) gives these descriptions on eating disorders: “Eating disorders develop as outward signs of inner emotional or psychological distress or problems. They become the way that people cope with difficulties in their life. Eating, or not eating, is used to help block out painful feelings. Without appropriate help and treatment, eating problems may persist throughout life. Eating disorders are complex illnesses where both the disturbed eating pattern as well as the psychological aspects need to be treated. Restoring a regular eating pattern plus a balanced diet is needed for balanced nutrition. Helping someone come to terms with the underlying emotional issues enables them to cope with difficulties in the way that is not harmful to them”. (EDA, 2004) Eating disorders may come in the form of Anorexia Nervosa (meaning ‘losing appetite because of nervousness’, wherein a person loses the ability to allow himself / herself to satisfy their appetite), Bulimia Nervosa (which literally means ‘the hunger of an ox’, but the hunger does not literally mean hunger on food but an emotional hunger that is being tried to be satisfied with food), Binge Eating disorder, and some ‘distinct’ variations, such as ‘chew and spit’ behavior, where a person chews the food then afterwards spits it out rather than swallowing, regurgitation (swallowing food, then bringing it up in the mouth again to be re-chewed), and eating non-foods (e.g., paper tissues) as substitution for their non-intake of calories. (EDA, 2004)
Can eating disorders result from deceptive advertising? The researcher of this research study believes there is a possible connection between eating disorders and deceptive advertising.
Harrison (2000) made a study which aimed to replicate survey research done to demonstrate a correlation between eating disorders and exposure of adults to ‘thin-ideal’ media. This study now focused on finding out the correlation of ‘thin-ideal’ media and eating disorders in adolescents. Body improvement media content, exposure to thin-ideal television and magazines, exposure to fat-character television, exposure to sports magazine and “eating symptomalogy” were measured. The study predicted that eating-disorder “symptomalogy” in female can be a result of exposure to fat-character television, thin-ideal magazines and sports-magazine, and that body dissatisfaction in males results from exposure to fat-character television. Specifically, it hypothesized: thin-deal television viewing will be positively associated with eating disorder symptomatology, independent of selective exposure based on interest in body-improvement television; thin-ideal magazine reading will be positively associated with eating disorder symptomatology, independent of selective exposure based on interest in body-improvement magazine topics; and the relationships hypothesized in the first and second hypotheses will be weaker for males exposed to male thin-ideal media than for females exposed to female thin-ideal media. (p.121)
The study yielded the following findings: “Exposure to thin-ideal television content did not predict disordered eating. Only exposure to fat-character television content was a significant positive predictor — of bulimia (for all females) and body dissatisfaction (for 6th-grade males). The second hypothesis was supported for anorexia (for all females) and bulimia (for 9th- and 12th-grade females), but not for males. The third hypothesis, which predicted sex differences, was supported by way of comparison of the significant slope coefficients for males and females, but because there were so few of these, conclusions about sex differences must be considered tentative. The question of whether sports magazine exposure would predict eating-disorder symptomatology was answered with analyses demonstrating a positive relationship for 12th-grade females only. All of these relationships were significant controlling for (a) selective exposure to the relevant media sources based on interest in their body-improvement content, and (b) overall television exposure (for the television analyses). The main findings of this study can be reduced in the following manner: For females, exposure to fat-character television content is related to increased bulimia, whereas exposure to thin-ideal magazine content is related to increased anorexia and, among 9th- and 12th-grade females, increased bulimia. Sports magazine exposure is related to increased body dissatisfaction among 12th-grade females only. For males, the only significant finding is that exposure to fat-character programming is related to increased body dissatisfaction among 6th-grade males. Thin-ideal media exposure and sports magazine exposure bore no relationship to eating-disorder symptomatology for males.” (pp. 137-138)
Accordingly, in another research, Harrison found that while eating disorders usually develop among adolescents, even grade school children can develop eating disorders. And this can simply be by watching television. The reason for this is that television viewing increases a child’s exposure to dieting messages, ideas and behaviors that may lead to a change of his / her eating behaviors and cognitions. Harrison also believes it is reasonable to expect that young children may get their understanding of what is an ‘ideal’ body from watching television, as research on other media effects, such as violence and aggression, suggests-that young children are more likely to model viewed behaviors than adolescents or adults. (Flapan, 2000)
Rationale for choice of Topic
This paper intends to draw a correlation between eating disorders in female teenagers in the UK and deceptive advertising. As Harrison said: “It is clear that we need more research to clarify the relationships between children’s interpersonal attraction to characters of varying body types and their eating- and body-related cognitions and behaviors. Only through increased understanding of how children of varying ages and both sexes may develop damaging body standards through early-life media exposure can we increase our understanding of how interventions, especially media-based interventions, may be adapted to a child audience to minimize their risk of developing eating disorders in adolescence and beyond.” (Flapan, 2000) The researcher of this study also shares Harrison’s view, especially since female teenagers in the UK are becoming more and more conscious of their appearances. (Cramer, Dittman, Dugan, Halliwell, Jacobs & Lloyd, 2000)
Another facet of this study is to answer relevant queries on deceptive advertising (i.e., what is considered deceptive advertising, what can be the hazards of deceptive advertising, and how powerful advertising is). Advertising exerts a significant impact on consumers’ lives (Pollay 1986), and the researcher of this study believes that advertising is such an effective tool to make a product a “hit” among its targets. It can make a person want something so badly, may it be a positive want or a negative need. As Davis (1994) had said: “On the positive side, advertising has discouraged participation in harmful behaviors (such as drunk driving and drug use), encouraged participation in socially beneficial behaviors (such as conservation and physical fitness), and provided detailed information which consumers need to accurately conduct product evaluations. On the negative side, advertising has misled and deceived consumers resulting in misinformed and inappropriate (and, in the case of health and environmental products, potentially dangerous) product selections.” (p. 380+)
Finally, this study hopes to identify how prevalent eating-disorders are among young ones in UK, so that this study may draw some recommendations that can address or solicit for the solution of this grave problem. As Childline says, there are more and more children that have to deal with eating disorders, but there’s not enough help around or understanding of how they affects kids, when kids with eating disorders need more help. (CBBC Newround, 2003)
Significance of the Study
The study shall be a welcome addition to the vast field of resources based on eating disorders, particularly among young children. Also, it will be an additional research on deceptive advertising, which the researcher of this study feels, has a need for further probing. The study shall point out if there is a correlation between deceptive advertising and the eating disorders among teenage girls in UK, so that recommendations to make a stop on this or at least a suggestion for a plausible solution can be made. Moreover, the study would be able to help the UK government in dealing with eating disorders of children in UK and also, will call for a more responsible advertising so as to protect young minds and thus provide for a suitable environment that promotes self-confidence and high self-esteem.
Aims and Objectives
Statement of the Problem
This researcher finds it necessary for a study that will specifically try to find out if there is a correlation between deceptive advertising and eating disorders of teenage girls in the UK. The general objective of the study is to identify if deceptive advertising has an impact to how teenage girls in UK see themselves-how they look, how they feel about themselves, and the like. Specifically, the study will try to answer the following queries:
1. What is the statistics of teenage girls in the UK that are dealing with eating disorders?
2. What are the eating disorders present among teenage girls in UK?
3. What is the definition and characteristics of deceptive advertising?
4. What are the advertisements that present deceptive meanings of being beautiful or having a beautiful body?
5. What is the definition of being beautiful or having a beautiful body for teenage girls in UK?
6. What is the role of these “deceptive” advertisements, and the media in general, in the views of teenage girls in UK about themselves?
Based on these queries, the researcher came up with the following assumptions:
1. That there is a significant relation between deceptive advertising and eating disorders among teenage girls in the UK.
2. That there is already a high statistic of eating disorders present among teenage UK girls.
3. That the most common eating disorder among teenage girls in the UK is Anorexia Nervosa.
4. That advertisements that promote beauty products, diet pills, fashion, slimming machines and advertisements being promoted by celebrities are those that are capable of using deceit.
5. That teenage girls in the UK define being beautiful in the standards of models and famous celebrities.
6. That the media creates a specific standard of beauty-that only those with beautiful bodies are to be considered beautiful.
Scope and Limitations
Although a lot of studies have already been advanced in eating disorders, the writer feels that there are only few studies that had been advanced, in particular, in finding out the relationship between the media and eating disorders, more specifically, with advertisements. Thus, the researcher of this study feels a need to fill this gap for more information on the relationship or non-relationship of eating disorders and “deceptive” advertising so as to establish more effective guidelines in addressing the issue of eating disorders in teenage girls in the UK. Further, the study may provide authentications on earlier studies made on either eating disorders and deceptive advertising, or even both. The study shall be acquiring information from teenage girls in the UK, relevant literature and studies, and also views from experts on the field of health for the subject of eating disorders (like psychologists) and advertisement. Moreover, the study will only be limited to the teenage girls based in the United Kingdom (UK) with ages ten to fifteen. This way the findings as well as the conclusion of this research could be considered as competent to formulate recommendations for the improvement of advertising in the United Kingdom that is more conducive in promoting self-confidence and high self-esteem among teenage girls, and also, come up with suggestions on how to deal with eating disorders among UK children (and young people) more effectively.
Research Methodology and Techniques for Data Collection
This research requires an organized data gathering needed to answer the objectives. Data will be gathered from relevant literatures and previous research studies. Specifically, the descriptive research method will be applied so that the study will be fast and inexpensive. It can also suggest unanticipated hypothesis. Further, this study will utilize observations in the duration of the study. The reason behind the application of descriptive approach is to be able to describe the nature of a situation, as it exists at the time of the study and to explore the cause/s of particular phenomena, and also, because the researcher desires to obtain first hand data from the respondents to be able to formulate rational and sound conclusions and recommendations for the study.
A number of teenagers in the UK, specifically girls, will be surveyed and interviewed to get the relevant data needed for this study. Their cooperation will be eagerly sought after. If possible, they will be visited and observed in their within a few days. However, these girls will be assured with the strictest confidence, so that the girls will be more open and also, trust with the researcher will be promoted.
Data analysis techniques and validity of data
The chi-square test will be applied so as to know if there is a correlation between the two variables: eating disorders among teenage girls in the UK and deceptive advertising.
Primary sources of data are other studies, journals and theses related to eating disorders and deceptive advertising, while secondary sources of data will be coming from interviews with professionals from the field of medicine and media. Analysis of the data will be based on these sources so as to be more credible.
Cash, T. F., Winstead, B. A., & Janda, L. H. (1986). The Great American shape- up: Body image survey report. Psychology Today, 20(4), 30-37.
CBBC Newsround. (04/01/2004). Teenage girls ‘hate their bodies”. In BBC.CO.UK. Available at: [www.news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/uk/newsid_3371000/3371363.stm]. Accessed [09/01/2204].
Cramer, Helen, Dittmar, Helga, Dugan, Shaun, Halliwell, Emma, Jacobs, Neil and Lloyd, Barbara. (2000). The “Body Beautiful”: English Adolescents’ Images of Ideal. In Sex Roles: A Journal of Research. Page Number: 887. Plenum Publishing Corporation
Davis, Joel J. (1994). Ethics in advertising decisionmaking: implications for reducing the incidence of deceptive advertising. In Journal of Consumer Affairs. Volume: 28. Issue: 2. Publication Year: 1994. Page Number: 380+.
Eating Disorder Association. What is an eating disorder?. In EDA UK. Available at: [http://www.edauk.com/what_is_eating_disorder.htm]. Accessed [09/01/2004]
Flapan, Deborah ed. 2000, “Young Children May Begin to Develop Eating Disorders by Watching TV”. In Medscape Medical News. New York: MedscapeWire.
Gunborge, Palme. (28/10/2003). Definition of Eating Disorders. In Web4Health. Available at: [http://web4health.info/en/answers/ed-dia-ed-def.htm]. Accessed: [09/01/2004]
Harrison, Kristen. (2000). The Body Electric: Thin-Ideal Media and Eating Disorders in Adolescents. In Journal of Communication. Volume: 50. Issue: 3.
Lapsley, D. K., Milstead, M., Quintana, S. M., Flannery, D., & Buss, R. R. (1986). Adolescent egocentrism and formal operations: Tests of a theoretical assumption. Developmental Psychology, 22, 800-807.
Pollay, Richard W. (1986), “The Distorted Mirror: Reflections on the Unintended Consequences of Advertising,” Journal of Marketing, 50: 18-36.
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