This paper argues that body image, media and ethnicity (cultural belonging) influence ones sense of identity and if ones self-esteem is lowered by a negative "inner monologue" in relationship to these things, it can be at the heart of ones identity crisis through adolescence.
"Body image - (how people believe they look to others)
is an important part of a person's self-concept and self-esteem.
This is especially true during adolescence." (1)
"Adolescents of both sexes are concerned about the appearance of their bodies (Darcy, 1986; Elkind, 1984; Winship, 1991)."(2)
It is natural for adolescents to be interested in their body and image, but how do adolescents develop an individual image of themselves? Most will be like me and spend hours in front of the mirror gleaning a personal idea of what they look like and then compare themselves to every one and every thing around them, especially the media. (I did this as an adolescent as well)
In a study (Etcher, Baizerman, & Michelman, 1991) in which it was found that in the development of their own identities, average adolescents gained reference points from peers who were of extreme social types, and with whom they may have had little, if any direct contact. Media figures, who may in large part be perceived as fictive peers, often represent extreme social types. Certain media celebrities have gained great impact as ideal role models for a majority of children, being viewed even more positively than actual acquaintances (Duck, 1990) (3)
Using role models from the media can have a detrimental effect as my semiotic media analysis shows there is a huge gap between the myths portrayed in the media and reality.
Body images promoted by the entertainment and fashion industries emphasize the importance of physical appearance and provide standards that are UN-realistic for most teenagers. Hours of watching MTV channel, which stresses physical features over personal attributes and qualities, can leave little doubt in the adolescent's mind about what is attractive in both men and women (Kaplan, 1990) (4)
Advertisers know how to make you want the myth and target adolescents because they are vulnerable and a very lucrative mark. As these next figures show -
· According to Teen Research Unlimited (1991), adolescents
in the United States spent $82 Billion on goods and services.
· (Cuno, 1989) reported that Tweens (ages12-14) buy or influence the purchase of $45 billion worth of goods a year. (5)
When I was in the Bankstown Police boys junior military band,
I was told by my music teacher that if I wanted to become accomplished
enough to make it into the senior band I would have to practice
at least 1 hour a day. My twelve-year-old case study, alias Matthew
Ranker, admits to watching 30 hours of television weekly. Which
means that he is watching approximatley10 hours of ads a week,
1.42 hours of ads a day. Imagine how accomplished the ads are
at telling him, what the right body image is, what he should be
wearing, how he should look and who he should be. It's no wonder
then; he thinks image is one thing that should be taken into account
when selecting his partner.
What does he mean by image? The image of the role models in the ads he is watching, they are all beautiful, slim, sexy and mainly Anglo-Saxon. They are repeatedly telling him, 10 hours a week, to have fun with beautiful girls he must tuck into steaming hot pizza's, Chicken burgers, life savers and chocolate. Don't ask me how an adolescent with that sort of diet will be able to maintain this sort of image. Unless when they are in front of the mirror stock- taking, they notice how fat they are getting from all the junk food and start throwing up after every episode of chasing the myth. If image and brand are so important to Matthew, what effect will it have on his self-esteem when he realizes that with his Filipino looks he does not conform to these stereo types? In the case study, Matthew denies a link to any other culture even though his mother is Filipino, instead of learning to speak her native tongue, he has chosen to learn French and Japanese. In Erikson's four stages in the development of identity in ethnic minority individuals,(6) this would put Matthew in
Stage 1: Preencounter. In this first stage, ethnic minority individuals prefer dominant cultural values to those of their own culture. Their role models, lifestyles and value systems are adopted from the dominant group, while the physical and/or cultural characteristics that single them out as ethnic minority individuals are a source of pain and stress.(7)
The only clues in the case study that might suggest that his Filipino characteristics are a source of pain and stress is the fact that if he could, he would change the amount of hours he has to spend at school. Stating twice that children must stay at home and learn through their computer. Which raises the question why? Schools have computers! Everyone is different and in Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences or Seven Frames of Mind,(8) Matthew's ideal learning style might be Intra-personal, preferring to learn by himself.
Acculturative Stress (9) emerges as another possibility, when you consider the concerns of the residents of Bankstown together with the statistics of the languages spoken at home by young people 12-24 years of age.
There is a growing concern amongst Bankstown residents in the general areas of multiculturalism, Personal safety, Gangs and youth related crime issues and Law and order. There is statistical evidence to show that young people are the most affected by crime, both as victims and perpetrators.(10)
YOUNG PEOPLE 12-24 YEARS AND THE LANGUAGE SPOKEN AT
Bankstown Local Government Area.
ABS Census 1996
John W. Santrock says, as the number of Hispanics and Asians have increased dramatically, and as Native Americans have crossed the boundaries of their reservations, the visibility of these groups has brought them in contact not only with the mainstream White society, but with one an other as well. Depending on the circumstances this contact has sometimes been harmonious, sometimes antagonistic.(11)
Although Santrock's statement uses American ethnic considerations,
the underling ethnic problems facing Bankstown are the same. The
media have targeted Arabic youth gangs raising their visibility,(12) the rising crime rate and growing population
diversity forcing different cultural groups to interact. Of course
not all crime in Bankstown is youth gang related but it is a concern.
Matthew's Filipino features place him in a minority, and so put
him at risk of discrimination, stress and antagonisms from other
cultural groups. If discrimination and racial prejudice are factors
in Matthew's desire to do all his schoolwork from home then this
has dramatic implications for the multicultural policy in both
his school and the council. The Multicultural policy is supposed
to be in place to protect and foster, not only tolerance and understanding
but so an individual can proudly proclaim and explore their ethnicity.
To bring out Multicultural Australia so the diverse nature and
different backgrounds of our community can be use to enrich our
lives. So we can tap into it as a rich resource and use the experience
to build wealth as a nation.(13)
Matthew's lack of identification with his cultural heritage and attachment to the White Anglo dominant culture is what J.S Phinny calls, Unexamined cultural identity (Phinny 1990) early adolescents and others who may have given little thought to their identity. They may have absorbed their parents' attitudes without question, or they may prefer views of the dominant culture.(14) This is the case with Matthew, he wants the white Australian Middle class dream, a large house in the suburbs (Fairfield), a good brand car, (a BMW), to get married at 31 and have two kids. Matthew thinks that both his parents want him to be an Air Force Pilot, and he has chosen this as his number one choice. Hill and Lynch (1983) believe that adolescents experiencing puberty are concerned with the significance of their gender. When the meaning of gender is somewhat unclear, adolescents are more likely to use the categories of male and female in a rigid and stereotyped manner. (15)
Many of Matthew's decisions like his choice of occupation are
based on gender-role stereotypes. Males are generally expected
to be leaders, to develop mathematical and mechanical abilities,
to be physically strong and athletic, and to have little interest
in caring for others. Male identity and self-esteem often depend
on career success. (16) Matthew mirrors
these attitudes in the case study-
· he experts to be a high ranked officer and a leader of his field because he has the determination
· he will be a house captain of school
· school prefect
· Dux of class
· he imagines that he will gain an award for Mathematics and English
· his leisure pursuits will be watching and playing rugby league
· his career will give him the most satisfaction
Sandra Bem (1975) said that highly masculine males may be better adjusted psychologically than other males during adolescence, but as adults they may become anxious and neurotic. Pressures felt by American males to achieve in their careers and to hide feelings of sadness or weakness, for example might contribute to anxiety and neuroticism (17)
Joseph Pleck (Pleck, 1993; Pleck and others, 1994) disagrees stating that problems begin with conformity to gender stereotypes begin in adolescence. He says that conformity to the gender stereotypes in adolescents report more drug and alcohol use, more delinquency, more school problems, and higher levels of sexual activity then boys with less traditional gender-role belief. (18)
This would place Matthew in danger of developing a destructive inner monologue.(19) It is my theory, that humans at all ages have an on-going inner monologue. By Adulthood, we are aware of how destructive negative thoughts can be so we try to keep our inner monologue positive, it tends to be supportive, encouraging, forgiving and consoling. In childhood it tends to be imaginary - fairy's, dragons sharks and monsters. Moving into adolescence it manifests as egocentrism.(20) During this stage I take on David Elkind's belief that adolescent egocentrism can be dissected into two types of social thinking - imaginary audience and personal fable.(21) Anything that upsets the balance of ordinary life, in Mathew's case, it could be a problem at school; racism or problems associated with gender-role conformity can open up a negative inner monologue. This can damage the personal fable contributing to adolescents' low self-esteem and places the adolescent in danger of becoming depressed. It is a downward spiral; the inner monologue becomes self-conscious, hopeless and depressed. "I can't do it, so why should I bother." The imaginary audience turns against them and the adolescent knows the whole world is laughing at them because they are useless. They start to hate themselves and they fail at everything because they expect to fail and every failure reinforces how hopeless they are. Luckily the personal fable has super hero strength and is desperate with ambition. It gangs up with the id(22) and assaults the negative inner monologue. In most cases it persists in the background like an enthusiastic one-sided commentator stroking the ego with every move(23) "Well done mate, no one can tie shoe laces like you!" If the inner monologue starts to slip "what's the use of getting dressed up Rhoda Mare is not even going to notice me?" The personal fable will pipe up "Really, isn't she in your math's class today? Didn't she smile at you last week? Don't you think you better make an effort? What if Tony Freestone makes the effort and you don't and Rhoda notices him instead of you, they become friends and start going out instead of you and Rhoda it will be him and Rhoda all because you didn't make an effort?" Once the negative inner monologue weakens, the personal fable gains control and the adolescent can once again become a normal screwed up teenager.
It is true Matthew has to come to terms with his cultural and personal identity and deal with the problems associated with gender-role conformity. Luckily, in his favour he has many Protective factors - Characteristics of resilient individuals that protect them from stress. Supportive family environments, support from the social network outside of the family positive self- concept, an easy going disposition, and good social skills ate some of the known protective factors.(24)
· He has supportive parents that will be available when needed both personally and financially
· He has a high self-image of himself - stating that personal ability and drive will get him ahead. Self-efficacy, our self-expectations or beliefs about what we can accomplish as a result of our efforts, which influences our willingness to attempt the task and the level of success we achieve(25)
· He serves on the altar - Interdependence - when people depend on one another for help and define themselves as members of a group, such as a family, a church, or a community(26)
· He has a positive inner monologue - this assumption is derived from his statement that he is hopeful for the future. It is not possible to be hopeful about the future unless you have a positive inner monologue. This is also showing the drawing in his personal statement; the figure he has is happy and labeled with words like- Officer, Well-dressed and High Ranked. It would be impossible to imagine yourself in the future as happy and successful unless you had a positive inner monologue.
· He comes from an upper middle class background so he does not have to worry about poverty
· He is a high achiever at school
If adolescence is like jumping out of an aeroplane then all
of the above points are Matthew's parachute; they will reinforce
his sense of self and worth and contribute to providing Matthew
with a safe landing into adulthood.
In conclusion, by looking at a case study of a twelve year old adolescent in context of the media, body image, and ethnicity, this paper argued that anything that opens a negative inner monologue, in Mathew's case, it could be a problem at school; racism or problems associated with gender-role conformity, is detrimental to ones sense of identity and self-esteem. In order to avoid these serious problems an adolescent must have several protective factors in place like supportive parents, a high self-image and self-esteem and especially a positive inner monologue. This way negative influences, like the media can be put into a healthier perspective and the adolescent can develop the inner strength and courage to accept who they are for what they are. Making the journey from adolescence into adulthood an interesting and safe one.
1. Darcy., John, Kenny., Maureen, Second Edition.(1997)
Adolescent Development, WCB/McGraw-Hill, America (p90)
2. Darcy., John, Kenny., Maureen, Second Edition.(1997) Adolescent Development, WCB/McGraw-Hill, America (p90)
3. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, June 1998 v26 n4 p425(19)
4. Darcy., John, Kenny., Maureen, Second Edition.(1997) Adolescent Development, WCB/McGraw-Hill, America (p93)
5. Adolescence, Fall 1998 v33 i131 p637 (8)
6. Santrock., John W., (1993)Fifth Edition Adolescence an Introduction, University of Texas, Dallas Brown and Benchmark (p353)
7. Santrock., John W., (1993)Fifth Edition Adolescence an Introduction, University of Texas, Dallas Brown and Benchmark (p353-354)
8. Santrock., John W., (1993)Fifth Edition Adolescence an Introduction, University of Texas, Dallas Brown and Benchmark (164-166)
9. Santrock., John W., (1993)Fifth Edition Adolescence an Introduction, University of Texas, Dallas Brown and Benchmark (563)
10. Bankstown community profile 2000 http://www.bankstowncity.nsw.gov.au/
11. Santrock., John W., (1993)Fifth Edition Adolescence an Introduction, University of Texas, Dallas Brown and Benchmark (564)
12. Bankstown community profile 2000 http://www.bankstowncity.nsw.gov.au/
13. Paraphrased from concepts contained in the multicultural policy
14. Darcy., John, Kenny., Maureen, Second Edition.(1997) Adolescent Development, WCB/McGraw-Hill, America (p192)
15. Darcy., John, Kenny., Maureen, Second Edition.(1997) Adolescent Development, WCB/McGraw-Hill, America (p195)
16. Darcy., John, Kenny., Maureen, Second Edition.(1997) Adolescent Development, WCB/McGraw-Hill, America (p343)
17. Darcy., John, Kenny., Maureen, Second Edition.(1997) Adolescent Development, WCB/McGraw-Hill, America (p196)
18. Darcy., John, Kenny., Maureen, Second Edition.(1997) Adolescent Development, WCB/McGraw-Hill, America (p198)
19. This theory is a retrospective look at my own inner monologue during a period I was diagnosed with manic-depression in context of adolescence.
20. Santrock., John W., (1993)Fifth Edition Adolescence an Introduction, University of Texas, Dallas Brown and Benchmark (p134-135)
21. Santrock., John W., (1993)Fifth Edition Adolescence an Introduction, University of Texas, Dallas Brown and Benchmark (p44)
22. Santrock., John W., (1993)Fifth Edition Adolescence an Introduction, University of Texas, Dallas Brown and Benchmark (p44)
23. Santrock., John W., (1993)Fifth Edition
Adolescence an Introduction, University of Texas, Dallas Brown
and Benchmark (p44)
24. Darcy., John, Kenny., Maureen, Second Edition.(1997) Adolescent Development, WCB/McGraw-Hill, America (p365)
25. Darcy., John, Kenny., Maureen, Second Edition.(1997) Adolescent Development, WCB/McGraw-Hill, America (p342)
26. Darcy., John, Kenny., Maureen, Second Edition.(1997) Adolescent Development, WCB/McGraw-Hill, America (p171)