Journal of Consumer Sciences

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The early-adolescent girl's experience of weight gain: A symbolic interactionism and life-course conceptual framework

SJ Lubbe, HM de Klerk


In a rapidly changing Western society, with its strong emphasis on a slim female body as the ultimate goal, it probably gets increasingly difficult for the early-adolescent girl to accept the normal weight gain that accompanies the onset of puberty. As a result of the many physical, cognitive and social changes and necessary adaptations that have to be made, many early-adolescents experience this time of life as a crisis.

Although a considerable body of research has been done with regard to various aspects of early-adolescent development, including aspects such as overweight and the development of a positive body image, the role of culture, obesity stereotypes and the thin ideal in the development of early-adolescent self-esteem, very little has been done with regard to the early-adolescent girl’s experience of weight gain as part of the experience of self.

We argue that the early-adolescent girl’s body cannot be separated from the rest of her self. Accepting or not accepting physical changes such as gaining weight, and experiencing it positively or negatively, therefore also has consequences for how she experiences the rest of the self. We believe that it is not only about her own perceptions, standards and experiences, but also about those of others and society, and in this case then specifically their viewpoints on weight. Our point of departure therefore asks for a conceptual framework that focuses on the early-adolescent girl’s socio-psychological and -cognitive experiences of weight. We believe that combining symbolic interactionism and a life-course perspective provides the opportunity for the prospective researcher to study the early-adolescent girl in her entirety, understanding her experiences and behaviour, instead of merely trying to identify a few factors or possible causes for her behaviour.

AJOL African Journals Online