Body image and identity formation: the role of identity distress

Steven L. Berman, Cristi L. Kamps


This study explores the relationship between body image and identity development in a sample of 53 college students (mean = 26.45 years; s.d. = 7.36). College is an environment that promotes identity development, but it is also a time when many students face a heightened risk for weight gain, which could affect their body image. Previous studies have demonstrated relationships between body image and identity status. The purpose of this study was to build on that research by exploring the role of identity distress in the relationship between body image and identity status. It was hypothesized that those individuals who met for a DSM IV diagnosis of identity problem would exhibit more anxiety about their body image, and that identity distress would be a better predictor of body image than identity status alone. In this cross sectional study, participants in the moratorium identity status scored significantly higher on overweight preoccupation than those in the foreclosed identity status. Males had a significantly higher evaluation of their appearance than women did. Those who met DSM IV diagnosis for identity problem scored significantly lower in health orientation and body areas satisfaction. Identity distress was a significant predictor of appearance evaluation, body areas satisfaction, and overweight preoccupation, while a foreclosed identity status was a significant predictor of fitness orientation. Implications for intervention and prevention programs are discussed.

Palabras clave

body image, identity development, identity distress

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