Monday, May 09, 2005

Appearance is everything among teens

PUBLICATION: The Ottawa Citizen
DATE: 2005.05.09
BYLINE: Misty Harris
SOURCE: The Ottawa Citizen
ILLUSTRATION: Colour Photo: Jim Cooper, The Associated Press / Canadiansinger Avril Lavigne established a punk and anti-fashion identity during her teen years, a time when all teens go through a serious re-evaluation of their self image in large part because of the pressures of puberty, says Laurie Mah, a trend analyst with Youthography.


Appearance is everything among teens, youth survey finds


A new survey of nearly 1,500 young Canadians suggests teenagers are feeling good about themselves as people, but are as insecure as ever with the way they look.

Although more than 60 per cent of youth aged nine to 13 in the survey feel good or very good about their appearance, the numbers dropped by 10 per cent for males and females in their later teens -- the biggest dip among all age groups -- and only improved among respondents in their mid-20s.

According to Youthography, the Toronto marketing consultancy that conducted the research, young people in Alberta and British Columbia had the most negative view of themselves.

When asked how they felt about their daily general appearance, 13.2 per cent said they felt terrible or somewhat terrible. The same sentiments were registered by 9.5 per cent of young people surveyed in Ontario, and by six per cent of respondents in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

"When young kids become teens, that's when everybody else's opinion begins to count so much," says Laurie Mah, a Youthography trend analyst who helped interpret the findings. "There is a huge change in the way they see themselves and in how they interact with their peers."

The introduction of romance and sexuality also raises the stakes, she says, causing teenagers to re-evaluate their appearance based on a whole new set of social rules.

"The connection back to your own sexuality and your own level of attractiveness to other people becomes so strong when you're going through puberty," explains Ms. Mah. "It's not just some kid saying you're fat or you're ugly. It's like, 'I have such a hard crush on this guy or girl and why don't they like me back?' "

Canadian youth surveyed are much happier, however, with their inner selves. More than three out of four respondents indicated a high to very high level of pride in characteristics such as attitude and intelligence, with an even higher response among those over the age of 24.

In Ontario, 78.1 per cent of respondents gave their inner qualities top marks, compared with 75.2 per cent in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and 72.1 per cent in Alberta and B.C.

The survey of Canadians aged nine to 29 is considered accurate to within plus or minus 2.65 percentage points, with a slightly higher margin of error for regional breakdowns. Complete findings are published in the new issue of Ping.

Rebecca Sullivan, a professor of communications and culture at the University of Calgary, says the most interesting part of the new research may be the questions the survey is posing.

"The very thing they're looking for isn't high self-esteem," she says, but how consumer culture operates on people who feel the need to fulfill themselves through consumption. The worse teenagers feel about themselves, Ms. Sullivan says, the more likely they are to buy things to boost their egos.


Post a Comment

<< Home