The Influence of Sports Magazines and Thin-Ideal Images On the Body Image of Division IA Female Athletes

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Performance and Recreation

First Advisor

Nancy Magee Speed

Advisor Department

Human Performance and Recreation


The purpose of this study was to examine the impact that sports magazines and thin-ideal images have on the body image, as identified by appearance, weight, and attribution, of female collegiate athletes. The secondary purpose of this study was to determine what role race plays in the development of body image dissatisfaction as a result of viewing sports magazines and thin-ideal images. Collegiate athletes (N=87) were surveyed using the Body-Esteem Scale for Adolescents and Adults developed by Mendelson, B., Mendelson, M., and White (2001). African-Americans scored higher on all 3 sub-scales, which was indicative of an overall more favorable account of body-esteem than other racial groups. Of the three racial groups, the White/Euro-American athletes scored the lowest on all 3 sub-scales, indicating an overall lower account of body-esteem than other racial groups. Descriptive statistics were performed regarding the frequency of exposure to different genres of magazines. The genre that received the highest percentage for all racial groups of always engaging in reading was fashion magazines (20.7%). For all racial groups the genre that received the highest percentage (59.8%) of never engaging in reading was sport-specific magazines. An independent-samples t -test was conducted to assess the differences between the means of racial groups with regard to thin-ideal magazine exposure. With regard to general magazine reading, the test was significant, t (79) = -2.441, p = .017. White female athletes (M = 13.71, SD = 3.61) have higher exposure to magazines than non-White female athletes (M = 11.59, SD = 3.08). With regard to fashion and entertainment magazine reading, there was a significant difference, t (79) = -3.222, p = .002. White female athletes have higher exposure to fashion and entertainment magazines (M = 7.19, SD = 2.07) than non-White female athletes (M = 5.54, SD = 1.94). Twenty female athletes who completed a survey instrument were selected to participate in individual interviews pertaining to (a) body image, (b) the importance of having a healthy body image, (c) body image and athletic performance, and (d) athletes portrayal in the media. The primary data source for analysis in the qualitative component of the study was individual interviews. Each interview was digitally recorded and professionally transcribed. Data transformation occurred via (a) displaying findings, (b) identifying patterned regularities in the data, (c) comparing cases with one another, and (d) critiquing the research process. A graphical depiction was used to display themes. In identifying themes in this study, interview transcripts were read and coded. Coding, in turn, was used to collapse the interview transcripts into five major themes and fourteen sub-themes. The major themes that emerged during analysis were: (a) Feel Pressure, (b) Still Fighting for Respect, (c) Portrayed as Gods, (d) Must Have Healthy Body, and (e) It's All We See. The coalescence of the major themes and sub-themes provided insight in the extent that perceptions in body image were influenced by viewing sports media in selected Division I female athletes attending a major university in the southeastern United States.