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

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

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School for Mass Communication Research, Faculty of Social Sciences, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.
Department of Communication, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
School for Mass Communication Research, Faculty of Social Sciences, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.
Research Foundation Flanders (FWO-Vlaanderen), Brussels, Belgium.


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 (Nā€‰=ā€‰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.


Cross-cultural; Internalization; Rewards; Self-sexualization; Social media; Traditional media

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