Body dissatisfaction, maternal appraisal, and depressive symptoms in Hong Kong adolescents

Int J Psychol. 2010 Dec 1;45(6):453-60. doi: 10.1080/00207594.2010.481719.


Body dissatisfaction, its risk factors and association with depressed mood have been well investigated in the West. However, more studies are needed to examine further the relation between body dissatisfaction and depressive symptoms and the factors influencing body dissatisfaction in non-Western cultures. The present study examined in a sample of Hong Kong Chinese adolescents the relation between body dissatisfaction and depressive symptoms, and the relation of maternal appraisal of their adolescent's figure to the adolescent's body dissatisfaction and depressive symptoms. We obtained information from 379 boys and 254 girls about their body dissatisfaction and depressive symptoms. Their mothers provided information about their appraisal of their adolescent's body shape and size compared to ideal. Body dissatisfaction was related to depressive symptoms in girls (B = 2.58, p <.01), but not in boys (B = -0.08, p >.10). Negative maternal appraisal did not have direct effects on adolescents' depressive symptoms (B = 0.14, p =.75), but the association between negative maternal appraisal and body dissatisfaction was significantly stronger in adolescents whose ideal was smaller than they perceived themselves to be (B = 0.32, p <.01) than those whose ideal was larger than their own perception (B = 0.14, p < .01). Our findings suggest that maternal appraisal had indirect effects on mood, acting through adolescents' body dissatisfaction, and that body dissatisfaction may be a sex-specific risk factor for depression. This study points to the need for testing and adapting programs to reduce body dissatisfaction particularly in girls at risk for depression, and to raise mothers' awareness of the link between their negative appraisals and their adolescents' body dissatisfaction and depressive symptoms.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Affect
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group / psychology*
  • Body Image*
  • Child
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / ethnology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Self Concept
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult