Critical Review of Young teenagers’ perceptions of their own and others’ bodies: A qualitative study of obese, overweight and ‘normal’ weight young people in Scotland.

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Critical Review of Young teenagers’ perceptions of their own and others’ bodies: A qualitative study of obese, overweight and ‘normal’ weight young people in Scotland


“Young teenagers’ perceptions of their own and others’ bodies: A qualitative study of obese, overweight and ‘normal’ weight young people in Scotland” (Wendy Wills, 2005) conducted a research on how teenagers perceive themselves and others around them based on their bodies. This research aimed to provide a good insight into the mindset of teenagers in the modern world. This study focused mainly on the views of teenagers on common perceptions about being ‘fat’ and effects and influences of being fat and impact of friends and family on this issue.


The authors have tried to probe the current views that the teenagers in Scotland have on ‘fatness’. They have done a thorough research and have given in depth views into the different views of the teenagers. This research identified various points that reflect the current thoughts of the teenagers (Miles, 1998). For example, a majority of the teenagers are not overtly bothered about their physical appearance. However a few individuals had attempted to lose weight by going on a crash diet and a few more readily accepted that they lack the will power needed to exercise.

This study also has considered the impact of the environment in which the young people live (Wertheim, 1997). It gives an insight into how people tend to perceive their friends who are either normal or fat. It also considers the impact of family and how individuals within a family consider themselves. This study also deals in the differences that exist in the psyche of boys and girls and how each gender deals with being fat or normal in terms of BMI (Bordo, 1993). The authors also have tried to understand on how teenagers define the term ‘healthy’. They asked what the people were doing to keep themselves healthy and their perceptions on whether their friends were healthy or not. Additionally, this paper also reveals the social behavior that is prevalent in the schools and their impact on people who are considered to be fat or obese.

The authors also probed the participants to reveal their attempts on losing weight and their experiences in trying to do so. Loosing weight was generally considered to be a good thing and the authors found that by not loosing weight people may go into a depression which was ultimately detrimental to the individual’s health.


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The authors primarily used qualitative analysis to understand the teenager’s perceptions (Richardson, 1996). They also took primary data by interviewing the participants face to face. The authors chose to do their research based on the perceptions of 13 and 14 year olds. They particularly chose people from this age group as they believed that 13 and 14 year olds face the highest amount of social, emotional and physical changes. They also based their research on individuals from a lower socio economic background as previous studies have shown that these people are more prone to be overweight and obese. The authors also undertook every ethical precaution and used a questionnaire to collect data for analysis.

Critical Review

The work of (Wendy Wills, 2005), provides much needed insight into world of obsessed teenagers and tries to identify the factors involved in growing obesity in young people. The authors have conducted a much more thorough study by incorporating the effects of the various micro environmental factors such as social factors, emotional factors that also play a part in influencing the minds of teenagers.

The authors have also chosen to take a qualitative analysis based on face to face interviews and also did a survey based analysis in order to get background information on the participant’s demographics and their activities. The approach is adequate however; the authors have chosen only to base their research on people from lower socio economic background. Therefore the findings of this study cannot be absolute since perceptions of people from other backgrounds like upper or middle level socio economic backgrounds were not considered. However, it seems interesting that lower socio economic groups are more prone to obesity than higher, which contradicts the previous studies on western counterpart. The author should have indicated the reason for overweight and obesity in low income group such as high intake of carbohydrates or fats or due to genetic predisposition or any other factor, in addition, the reason for choosing such low socio economic group for the study. This would have more weight age to the paper as such.

In terms of methodology, author did not give proper explanation about the sample size in terms how many students were approached and how many responded (response rate). In addition, authors also collected information related to socio-demographic characteristics, it would be nice, if authors presented this in a tabular format to understand the description of the population studied particularly physical activity pattern, food consumption regularity etc,. Further methodology for BMI is lacking such as how height and weight was measured, as this is an important for this paper since the data was categorized based on overweight and normal weight. Overall the study lacks proper methodology to support the findings.

The authors have provided a sufficiently clear description of the criteria used in the selection of cases for this particular study and the authors have also stated their reasons for choosing them. The authors also seem to have covered their bases by being sensitive to the feelings of the people and have justifiably taken all the necessary ethical precautions so as to not unintentionally harm someone. The authors also managed to present their analysis in a cohesive manner in their paper and the data was collected in a systematic manner with proper precaution taken to maintain privacy of the personal data. This helped the authors to interpret and analyze the collected data in a non-biased manner.

The paper does not give an adequate explanation for both for and against arguments and also gives an unbiased view on its own failings. For example, this paper would have been more insightful if the authors had chosen to include younger people from different social and economic backgrounds into their research. Another point is that the authors have also provided with proper and relevant evidence necessary to back their interpretations. The conclusions drawn from the analysis was presented in an easy to understandable manner. The study also covers all the research objectives that were set by the authors and this paper would definitely provide a strong base on which to develop further studies primarily because the authors seem to have covered their bases properly.


It is clear that in the current society, being thin is encouraged and being fat is frowned up on. This fact is proven in this research. People perceive themselves to be unhealthy based on looks rather than on medical facts. Friends and family play a vital role in the physical and mental well-being of a person. More awareness has to be created among the younger generation by educating them on the various factors that play a role in maintaining a person health.


Bordo, S. (1993). Unbearable weight: Feminism, western culture and the body. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Miles, S. C. (1998). ‘Fitting in and sticking out’: Consumption, consumer meanings and the construction of young people’s identities. Journal of Youth Studies , 81-96.

Richardson, J. T. (1996). Handbook of qualitative research methods for psychology and the social sciences. Leicester: BPS Books.

Wendy Wills, K. B.-M. (2005). Young teenagers’ perceptions of their own and others’ bodies: A qualitative study of obese, overweight and ‘normal’ weight young people in Scotland. Social Science and Medecine. , 398-409.

Wertheim, E. P. (1997). Why do adolescent girls watch their weight: An interview study examining sociocultural pressures to be thin. Journal of Psychosomatic Research,42(4). , 345-355.


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