How Social and Mass Media Relate to Youth's Self-Sexualization: Taking a Cross-National Perspective on Rewarded Appearance Ideals

J Youth Adolesc. 2018 Jul;47(7):1440-1455. doi: 10.1007/s10964-018-0844-3. Epub 2018 Mar 23.


Although media exposure has been related to cognitive preoccupation with appearance, research rarely investigated adolescents' behavioral self-sexualization. To address this gap, the present study among 12- to 16-year-olds (N = 1527; 50.2% girls) in Austria, Belgium, Spain, and South-Korea (1) investigates whether different types of media use relate to self-sexualization, (2) explores the explanatory value of rewarded appearance ideals, and (3) considers culture and gender as moderating factors. Despite cultural variation, a general trend of increasing self-sexualization with social media use and magazine reading appeared across the countries. Moreover, women's magazine reading and rewards were related to self-sexualization among all the girls across the countries, which suggests that girls may be more vulnerable to the examined effects. Overall, this study provides a better understanding of the unique contribution of specific media genres to youth's self-sexualization and points at the importance of social media use in girls' and boys' engagement in sexualizing appearance behaviors across four countries.

Keywords: Cross-cultural; Internalization; Rewards; Self-sexualization; Social media; Traditional media.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Body Image / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • Republic of Korea
  • Reward*
  • Self Concept*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Spain