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Peer influence on adolescent boys' appearance management behaviors.

Appearance is defined as all observable aspects of a person (Damhorst, 2005). Appearance management behaviors encompass alterations to the body, such as clothing, personal grooming, and makeup (Roach-Higgins & Eicher, 1992). Individuals often alter their appearance in an attempt to achieve a look that society deems as ideal; while females are frequently concerned with body weight, males' issues of appearance management tend to center around masculinity (Jones & Crawford, 2005; Rudd & Lennon, 2000). Adolescent boys' appearance management may go beyond exercising and dieting; however, their specific behaviors in this area have been overlooked in the research literature.

Adolescent boys' heightened body consciousness can be attributed in part to numerous physical changes, which is compounded by an increased need for peer approval. Their body image is greatly influenced by social interactions and developmental changes (Jones & Crawford, 2005). Furthermore, achieving a desirable physical appearance oftentimes requires unhealthy and risk-taking behaviors. Serious quality-of-life concerns occur when their risk perceptions of these behaviors are compounded by peer group influence.

Adolescents make conscious decisions to protect their self-esteem and peer relations (Joseph, Larrick, Steele, & Nisbett, 1992; Maggs, Almeida, & Galambos, 1995). Such decisions may be made when they are believed to be rewarding even if they involved risk (Harter & Baumeister, 1993; Hartup, 1989) and perceived as generating positive outcomes (e.g., protecting peer relations; Maggs et al., 1995). Therefore, adolescent boys' degree of appearance management has far-reaching implications. Nevertheless, the types of appearance management behaviors chosen, how risky these behaviors are perceived, and the impact of peer influence--especially among adolescent boys--are not well documented in the literature.

LITERATURE REVIEW

According to Rudd and Lennon (2000), appearance management can be involved eating, substance abuse, and other appearance-related behaviors. They discovered that many female college students feel powerful in transforming their bodies into ideal forms, as long as they display appropriate dedication in achieving their goals. This transformation occurs through such methods as body building, dieting, exercising, plastic surgery, and substance use (Jones & Crawford, 2005; Kowalski, Mack, Crocker, Niefer, & Fleming, 2006).

Many females engage in unhealthy appearance management behaviors, such as tanning and excessive dieting and exercise (Rudd & Lennon, 2000), and although health risks are involved, they may continue these activities to make themselves attractive, especially when their behaviors are reinforced by others' compliments. In addition, many females receive support for these unhealthy behaviors by both adults and peers.

Peer Influence

Adolescents' peers are very influential in terms of socialization (Anderson & Meyer, 2000; Jones & Crawford, 2006). Peer influence begins early in life and increases with age (Anderson & Meyer; Dohnt & Tiggemann, 2006). In fact, peer influence accounts for much of adolescents' appearance management.

Appearance management behaviors are learned and now involve younger and younger generations (Dohnt & Tiggemann, 2006). Children begin learning appearance management behaviors from their peer groups. Adolescents who look for peer acceptance to guide their behaviors are at risk of body dissatisfaction (Jones, 2004) which may result in unhealthy appearance management.

Studies have shown that the peers to whom females compare themselves are often considered as more attractive, which compounds self-esteem and body satisfaction issues (Duckett et al., 1989; Rudd & Lennon, 2000). By exerting pressure to attain an ideal body size, peers may not only encourage unhealthy appearance management behaviors, but the development of body dissatisfaction and eating disorders (Field, Camargo, Barr Taylor, Berkey, Roberts, & Colditz, 2001). Jones, Vigfusdottir, and Lee (2004) approach peer influence in the context of appearance conversations and criticism from friends. Appearance-related conversations within peer groups, termed "appearance training" (Jones, 2004, p. 824), highlight appearance ideals and call attention to the aspects that are unattractive to their friends.

Bearden, Netemeyer, and Teel (1989) identify two forms of interpersonal influence: peer normative and peer informative. Normative influence is defined as the tendency to conform to the expectations of peers. Behaviors are motivated by the desire to achieve an ideal appearance. Peer informative influence takes place is the context of conversation about appearance criticism from friends. Appearance-related conversations within peer groups function to establish ideals and encourage behaviors to meet these ideals (Jones, 2004).

Objectives

To understand how peers influence adolescent boys' appearance management behaviors and risk perceptions, the following objectives of this research were established: (1) identify the types of appearance management behaviors in which they engage; (2) assess whether they perceive their behaviors as healthy; (3) determine whether peer normative and informative influence are significant in relation to the types and frequency of appearance management behaviors; and (4) determine whether peer normative and informative influence are significant with regard to risk perceptions of appearance management behaviors.

METHOD

Pilot Study

In order to identify the appearance management behaviors, 59 college students were asked to answer the following question: "Please list the types of appearance management behaviors that you have engaged in during your adolescent years to enhance your appearance." Eleven behaviors were identified: (1) exercising; (2) weightlifting; (3) body piercing; (4) tattooing/self-tattooing; (5) sunbathing; (6) using a tanning booth; (7) restricting food intake to lose weight; (8) dyeing hair; (9) taking diet pills to lose weight; (10) waxing skin to remove hair; and (11) spa treatments.

Data Collection Procedure

The Institutional Review Board approved a survey with an adolescent population. Formal letters were sent to the superintendents of public school districts in order to obtain permission to collect the data. Once permission was given, the school principals were contacted for permission to administer the survey. After permission was granted, students were provided with a parental consent form. Only those who provided the form were allowed to participate in the survey; they were then provided with assent forms; 155 adolescent boys, average age 14.3, participated. Most participants (92.6%) were Caucasian (see Table 1). Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and a Chi-square test. A Chi-square was used to compare the frequency of behaviors and risk perceptions based on the levels of peer influence.

Instrument

The first part of the questionnaire contained a seven-item peer normative influence (([alpha] = 0.81) and a four-item peer informative influence scale ([alpha] = 0.79) developed by Bearden et al. (1989). The items for each scale were scored using five-point agreement and disagreement Likert-type responses. The normative scale possible scores ranged from 5-35 (Mdn = 14). Participants who scored higher than the median were classified as high in peer normative influence. The informative scale possible scores ranged from 5-20 (Mdn = 9). Participants who scored higher than the median were classified as high in peer informative influence.

The second part of the questionnaire contained items concerning the types and frequency of appearance management behaviors. Participants were asked to indicate how frequently they engaged in behaviors identified during the pilot study. The participants were asked to rate their frequency as never = 1, once a month = 2, once every two weeks = 3, at least once a week = 4, and daily = 5. The response ser scores on the frequency of behaviors were collapsed to be categorized as 1 = "never behavior," 2-4 = "occasional behavior," and 5 = "daily behavior."

The third part of the questionnaire assessed adolescents' risk perceptions of engaging in these behaviors. They were asked to rate how healthy they perceived each of these behaviors. A 5-point Likert scale was used to measure the responses to their risk perceptions as 1 = not healthy, 2 = somewhat unhealthy; 3 = neutral, 4 = somewhat healthy, and 5 = healthy. Risk perceptions were categorized as follows: 1 or 2 = "unhealthy," 3 = "neutral," and 4 or 5 = "healthy."

The fourth part of the questionnaire contained demographic items that included the age, gender, and ethnicity.

RESULTS

Adolescent boys engaged in a variety of appearance management behaviors. A total of 45.5% exercised on a daily basis. In addition, 45.3% indicated that they did weightlifting at least once a week. On average, adolescent boys engaged in exercising and weightlifting frequently on a regular basis, followed by sunbathing, restricting food intake to lose weight, having body piercings or tattooing/self-tattooing, dyeing hair, spa treatments, using a tanning booth, taking diet pills to lose weight, and waxing skin to remove hair. Specifically, the participants had done the following appearance management behaviors in the past: sunbathed (27.7%); restricted food intake to lose weight (22.1%); body pierced (13.7%); dyed hair (11.6%); tattooed/self tattooed (10.1%); used a tanning booth (9.4%); underwent spa treatments (8.7%); waxed skin to remove hair (6.0%); and took diet pills to lose weight (4.0%) (see Table 2).

Participants perceived their appearance management behaviors as generally unhealthy or neutral: 82.7% and 54.4% believed that exercising and weightlifting were healthy, respectively. However, they perceived taking diet pills to lose weight (63.1%) as unhealthy, followed by restricting food intake to lose weight (55.1%), using a tanning both (54.4%), tattooing/self-tattooing (52.7%), and body piercing (52.1%). Participants were neutral about sunbathing (59.9%), spa treatments (59.5%), dyeing hair (56.6%), and waxing skin to remove hair (55.1%) (see Table 3).

Peer influence was involved in various types of appearance management behaviors. Those who had higher levels of peer normative influence engaged in waxing skin to remove hair (p < 0.05) more frequently, compared to participants who had lower levels of peer normative influence. Participants who had higher levels of peer informative influence engaged in sunbathing (p < 0.01), used a tanning booth (p < 0.01), waxed skin to remove hair (p < 0.05), and had spa treatments (p < 0.05) more frequently, compared to participants who had less peer informative influence (see Table 4). However, neither peer normative nor informative influence affected the risk perceptions of these behaviors (see Table 5).

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS

Many different types of appearance management behaviors were identified. It is surprising that participants noted varying frequencies of behaviors for weightlifting, which some had never done before, whereas others did so daily. Perhaps body shape achieved through weight-lifting was important for some appearance-conscious participants, where as it was not as important to others. It is also important to further address the reasons for and the perceived risks of weighting.

In general, most of the appearance management behaviors identified were perceived as unhealthy or neutral. In particular, a majority of the participants were neutral about sunbathing, waxing skin to remove hair, dyeing hair, and undergoing spa treatments. Although adolescents' risk perceptions appear to coincide with the frequency of their behaviors, it is important to note why adolescents engage in such behaviors (i.e., body piercing, tattooing, using tanning booths, taking diet pills) that pose a threat to their health, as well as some that leave a permanent mark on their bodies. In addition, one of three participants was neutral about taking diet pills to lose weight with respect to risk perception. The availability of over-the-counter diet pills and the media presentation of these products may make adolescents think that taking diet pills is the norm. In other words, they may view being slim as healthy, while being overweight unhealthy. Taking diet pills is merely considered a means of achieving slimness.

Peer influence was significant with regard to waxing to remove hair, sunbathing, using a tanning booth, and spa treatments. Coincidently, these behaviors affect how their skin appears to others. Specifically peer normative influence has an impact on waxing to remove hair, suggesting that for adolescent boys, hair on the body is an important concern. It is probable that smooth skin is normalized among adolescent boys while hair growth is likely to be an important concern regarding appearance, which may have been overlooked by previous research.

Peer informative influence was involved in sunbathing, using a tanning booth, waxing, and spa treatments, which suggests that appearance-conscious participants may share a wide range of information and experiences regarding their behaviors. Adolescent boys may have adopted their behaviors based on information gained from peer groups in terms of achieving an ideal appearance. While the findings are surprising, it is assumed that adolescents who have blackheads or acne may attempt to improve their facial appearance in order to avoid peer teasing. According to the International Spa Association, the number of teenage boys receiving spa services, such as hair removal and massage, nearly doubled since the early 1990s (Cheplic, 2009). Studies show that more than half of the nearly 14,000 spas in the U.S. offer packages highlighting the benefits of facials and waxing procedures for teenage boys (Cheplic, 2009).

Neither peer normative nor informative influences were significant in adolescents' risk perceptions of engaging in these behaviors. This suggests that peer influence is directed toward encouraging behaviors rather than making them aware of the health risks. Adolescent boys may not be aware of the long-term consequences of these behaviors and may take the risks if they believe that they can enhance their appearance. The harmful effects of appearance management behaviors should be taught in school or by parents because according to the findings of this study, the risk perceptions of these behaviors do not vary due to peer influence. For instance, the incidence of skin cancer has increased in the United States during the past 30 years due to increased exposure to the sun (Broadstock, Borland, & Gason, 1992; Miller, Ashton, McHoskey, & Gimbel, 1990). Jones and Leary (1994) note that messages emphasizing the negative effects of tanning on appearance (e.g., wrinkling, aging, and scarring) might be more effective in promoting safe sun tanning behavior than messages emphasizing cancer risks. Waxing is a hair removal trend for men, which is done on many areas of the body, including the face, eyebrows, chest, legs, arms, back, feet, and bikini line (Eldor, 2009). It can also have side effects, such as pain from pulling hair out by its roots, irritation, or an allergic reaction, as well as potentially dangerous bacterial infections.

It is of particular concern that 22.5% of the participants restricted their food intake, underwent body piercing (13.7%), did tattooing (10.3%), and took diet pills (4.1%), all of which were perceived as unhealthy by the participants. These statistics indicate a need for outreach to educators, parents, and adolescents to increase their awareness of the health risks. It is not always clear as to which behaviors are healthy and to what degree they pose a risk to adolescents when the outcomes are immediate, but the consequences of these behaviors sometimes take time to manifest themselves.

The findings of this research suggest the need for future study and to assist in promoting healthy appearance management behaviors of adolescents. Questions also emerge from the findings as to why adolescents varied in the frequency of their appearance management behaviors. More research is needed to understand the reasons for and the importance to adolescent boys of appearance management, especially for the most practiced behaviors, such as weightlifting and exercise. For example, while some adolescents perceive weightlifting as healthy, why did some boys not engage in this activity? Moreover, what risks do they perceive and why is peer influence significantly related to body tanning and waxing? Awareness can also be achieved through education on how unhealthy behaviors can influence well-being in the long term. Adolescent boys also need to be encouraged to formulate positive attitudes and realistic goals regarding their appearance.

REFERENCES

Anderson, H. C., & Meyer, D. J. C. (2000). Pre-adolescent consumer conformity: A study of motivation for purchasing apparel. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 4(2), 173-181.

Bearden, W. O., Netemeyer, R. G., & Teel, J. E. (1989). Measurement of consumer susceptibility to interpersonal influence. Journal of Consumer Research, 15, 473-482.

Broadstock, M., Borladn, R., & Gason, R. (1992). Effects of suntan on judgments of healthiness and attractiveness by adolescents. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 22, 157-172.

Cheplic, M. (2009). Would you send your son to a spa? Retrieved June 30, 2009, from http://www.families.com

Damhorst, M. L. (2005). Introduction. In O. T. Kontzias (Ed.), The meanings of dress (pp. 1-12). New York City: Fairchild Publication, Inc.

Dohnt, H. K., & Tiggemann, M. (2006). Body image concerns in young girls: The role of peers and media prior to adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35(2), 141-151.

Duckett, E., Raffaelli, M., & Richards, M. H. (1989). "Taking care": Maintaining the self and the home in early adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 18(6), 549-565.

Eldor, K. (2006). Hair removal trends for men. Retrieved June 30, 2009, from http://www.askmen.com/fashion/trends_100/103_men.html

Field, A. E., Camargo, C. A., Taylor, C. B., Berkey, C. S., Roberts, S. B., & Colditz, G. A. (2001). Peer, parent, and media influences on the development of weight concerns and frequent dieting among preadolescent and adolescent girls and boys. Pediatrics, 107, 54-60.

Harter, S. (1993). Causes and consequences of low self-esteem in children and adolescents. In R. F. Baumeister (Ed.), Self-esteem: The puzzle of low self-regard. Plenum series in social/clinical psychology (Vol. 27, pp 87-116). New York: Plenum Press.

Jones, D. C. (2004). Body image among adolescent girls and boys: A longitudinal study. Developmental Psychology, 40, 823-835.

Jones, D. C., & Crawford, J. K. (2005). Adolescent boys and body image: Weight and muscularity concerns as dual pathways to body dissatisfaction. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 34, 629-636.

Jones, D. C., & Crawford, J. K. (2006). The peer appearance culture during adolescence: Gender and body mass variations. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35, 257-269.

Josephs, R. A., Larrick, R. P., Steele, C. M., & Nisbett, R. E. (1992). Protecting the self from the negative consequences of risky decisions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62(1), 26-37.

Hartup, W. W. (1989). Social relationships and their developmental significance. American Psychologists, 44(2), 120-126.

Kowalski, K. C., Mack, D. E., Crocker, P. R. E., Niefer, C. B., & Fleming, T. (2006). Coping with social physique anxiety in adolescence. Journal of Adolescent Health, 39, 9-16.

Leary, M. R., Tchividjiian, L. R., & Kraxberger, B. E. (1994). Self-presentation can be hazardous to your health: Impression management and health risk. Health Psychology, 13(6), 461-470.

Maggs, J. L., Almeida, D. M., & Galambos, N. L. (1995). Risky business: The paradoxical meaning of problem behavior for young adolescents. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 15(3), 344-362.

Miller, A. G., Ashton, W. A., McHoskey, J. W., & Gimbel, J. (1990). What price attractiveness? Stereotype and risk factors in suntanning behavior. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 20, 1272-1300.

Roach-Higgins, M. E., & Eicher, J. B. (1992). Dress and identity. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 10(4), 1-8.

Rudd, N. A., & Lennon, S. J. (2005). Body image and appearance-management behaviors in college women. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 18, 152-162.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Jeong-Ju Yoo, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, Baylor University, One Bear Place 97346, Waco, TX 76798. Email: Jay_Yoo@baylor.edu
Table 1
Demographic Characteristics of the Sample

Survey Participants (n = 155)
Age (n = 152)
Mean = 14.3 11 3.9 % (n = 6)
Range = 11-18 12 10.5% (n = 6)
 13 17.1% (n = 26)
 14 20.4 % (n = 31)
 15 26.3% (n = 40)
 16 13.2% (n = 20)
 17 7.2% (n = 11)
 18 1.3% (n = 2)
Race (n = 149)
 Caucasian 92.6 % (n = 138)
 Hispanic 2.0% (n = 3)
 African American 0.7% (n = 1)
 Other 4.7% (n = 7)

Table 2
Frequency of Appearance Management Behaviors

Type of appearance Never Occasional Daily
management behaviors % n % n % n

Exercising 4.1 6 50.3 73 45.5 66
Weightlifting 22.3 33 62.8 93 14.9 22
Body piercing 86.3 126 13.0 19 0.7 1
Tattooing/self-tattooing 89.9 134 9.4 l4 0.7 1
Sunbathing 72.3 107 27.0 40 0.7 1
Using a tanning booth 90.6 135 9.4 14 0.0 0
Restricting food intake to 77.9 116 19.5 29 2.7 4
 lose weight
Dyeing hair 88.4 129 11.6 17 0.0 0
Taking diet pills to lose 96.0 l43 3.4 5 0.7 1
 weight
Waxing skin to remove hair 94.0 14l 6.0 9 0 0
Spa treatments 91.30 136 8.7 13 0 0

* % is a valid percentage, which will add up to 100% for each type of
behavior.

Table 3
Risks Perceptions of Appearance Management Behaviors

Type of appearance Not healthy Neutral Healthy
management behaviors % n % n % n

Exercising 4.7 7 12.7 19 82.7 124
Weightlifting 4.7 7 40.9 61 54.4 8l
Body piercing 52.1 75 45.8 66 2.1 3
Tattooing/self-tattooing 52.7 78 44.6 66 2.7 4
Sunbathing 37.4 55 59.9 88 2.7 4
Using a tanning booth 54.4 81 43.0 64 2.7 4
Restricting food intake to 55.1 81 34.7 51 10.2 15
 lose weight
Dyeing hair 41.4 60 56.6 82 2.1 3
Taking diet pills to lose 63.1 94 34.0 52 2.0 3
 weight
Waxing skin to remove hair 42.2 62 55.1 81 2.7 4
Spa treatments 31.8 47 59.5 88 8.8 13

*% is a valid percentage, which will add up to 100% for each type of
behavior.

Table 4
Peer Influence on the Frequency of Appearance Management Behaviors

Type of Degree of Peer Normative Influence
Appearance Peer M X Chi-
Management Influence square
Behaviors test. Sig.

Exercising High 4.11 0.60 0.74
 Low 4.02
Weightlifting High 3.05 1.01 0.60
 Low 2.99
Body piercing High 1.23 2.01 0.37
 Low 1.21
Tattooing self- tattooing High 1.22 0.39 0.53
 Low 1.16
Sunbathing High 1.53 4.78 0.09
 Low 1.33
Using a tanning-booth High 1.14 2.49 0.16
 Low 1.05
Restricting food intake High 1.48 3.39 0.18
 Low 1.32
Dyeing hair High 1.08 0.66 0.42
 Low 1.19
Taking diet pills to High 1.09 1.76 0.42
 lose weight Low 1.01
Waxing skin to remove hair High 1.09 4.75 0.03*
 Low 1.01
Spa treatments High 1.16 2.49 0.16
 Low 1.05

Type of Peer Informative
Appearance M X Chi-
Management square
Behaviors test. Sig.

Exercising 3.97 0.27 0.87
 4.15
Weightlifting 3.07 1.13 0.57
 3.03
Body piercing 1.30 1.16 0.56
 1.18
Tattooing self- tattooing 1.27 1.56 0.46
 1.17
Sunbathing 1.64 10.89 0.00 *
 1.30
Using a tanning-booth 1.16 6.32 0.01 *
 1.05
Restricting food intake 1.47 1.36 0.51
 1.34
Dyeing hair 1.24 2.29 0.13
 1.08
Taking diet pills to 1.15 3.09 0.21
 lose weight 1.01
Waxing skin to remove hair 1.14 6.12 0.01
 1.01
Spa treatments 1.21 8.25 0.00 *
 1.03

* indicates significant at p < 0.05.

Table 5
Peer Influence on the Risk Perceptions of Appearance Management
Behaviors

Type of Degree of Peer Normative Influence
Appearance Peer M X Chi-
Management Influence square
Behaviors test. Sig.

Exercising High 4.11 5.97 0.051
 Low 4.02
Weightlifting High 3.05 0.73 0.69
 Low 2.99
Body piercing High 1.23 1.02 0.60
 Low 1.21
Tattooing self-tattooing High 1.22 0.15 0.93
 Low 1.16
Sunbathing High 1.53 3.20 0.20
 Low 1.33
Using a tanning-booth High 1.14 5.43 0.07
 Low 1.05
Restricting food intake High 1.48 3.10 0:21
 Low 1.32
Dyeing hair High 1.08 0.21 0.90
 Low 1.19
Taking diet pills to lose High 1.09 2.38 0.30
 weight Low 1.01
Waxing skin to remove hair High 1.09 1.92 0.38
 Low 1.01
Spa treatments High 1.16 0.18 0.91
 Low 1.05

Type of Peer Informative
Appearance M X Chi-
Management square
Behaviors test. Sig.

Exercising 3.97 1.50 0.47
 4.15
Weightlifting 3.07 2.02 0.36
 3.03
Body piercing 1.30 1.14 0.57
 1.18
Tattooing self-tattooing 1.27 3.21 0.20
 1.17
Sunbathing 1.63 2.61 0.27
 1.29
Using a tanning-booth 1.16 3.52 0.17
 1.05
Restricting food intake 1.47 0.88 0.64
 1.34
Dyeing hair 1.24 0.46 0.80
 1.08
Taking diet pills to lose 1.15 1.33 0.52
 weight 1.01
Waxing skin to remove hair l.14 l.27 0.53
 1.01
Spa treatments 1.21 3.04 0.22
 1.03

*indicates significant at p < 0.05.
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Author:Yoo, Jeong-Ju
Publication:Adolescence
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2009
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