Coping with Body Image Threats among College Women: The Swimsuit Problem

  •  K. Bailey    
  •  Larkin Lamarche    
  •  Kimberley Gammage    


This study explored college women’s (N = 104) strategies for coping with a high- and low-social-evaluative
body image threat. Using an experimental design, participants read and imagined themselves in one of two
scenarios: a high-social-evaluative body image threat condition (modeling a swimsuit in front of friends) or a
low-social-evaluative body image threat condition (modeling a swimsuit alone) and described strategies for
managing these situations. An inductive and deductive thematic approach was used to analyze the written
responses. In order of frequency, the following themes were found for the high-social-evaluative threat condition:
avoidance, appeasement, positive rational acceptance, social support, and social comparison. In order of
frequency for the low-social-evaluative condition the following themes were found: appeasement, positive
rational acceptance, avoidance, social support, outsider’s opinion, and social comparison. Overall, maladaptive
strategies for managing body image stressors (avoidance and appeasement) were reported the most frequently
across conditions.

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