A retrospective exploration of overweight adolescent girls' relationships with self, others, and cultural context

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Marriage and Family Therapy


Sexuality and weight, Body image, Parenting teenagers, Overweight adolescent girls, Second-order change, Marriage and family therapy

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Psychology


Using systems theory as a main theoretical influence, this phenomenology explored relational experiences with self, others, and cultural context. Twelve women who were currently between the ages of 22-29 and who, regardless of current weight, were overweight at some point in their adolescence, were interviewed over the telephone about their relational experiences as adolescents. These interviews produced 12 hours and 47 minutes of data which provided a wealth of information. Results of the interviews were presented in the domains of self, others, cultural context, and after adolescence/now. The domain of self revealed that weight was a focal point in the participants' relationship with self. It also highlighted the importance of sexual development in overweight adolescent girls. The domain of others revealed the important distinction between commentary and conversation in communication about weight-related issues. The domain of cultural context illuminated the influence of Western culture beauty ideals and enumerated ways in which participants, as adolescents, perceived that they were isolated from elements of culture. Finally the domain of after adolescence emphasized current perceptions around weight and revealed insights about the process of transformation. Based on participants' experiences during their adolescence, implications of the study highlighted the importance of, and stressed the need for, second-order change in the lives of overweight adolescent girls. Three specific areas of therapeutic intervention were suggested. Limitations of the study were addressed and directions for future research were discussed.


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