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Growing older in the 21st century: women’s experience of their body image as they have aged: implications for counselling psychology

Gordon, J. S. (2019). Growing older in the 21st century: women’s experience of their body image as they have aged: implications for counselling psychology. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Body image of middle-aged women has largely been ignored in the literature as it is viewed primarily as a young women’s issue. As women age they experience social, environmental and physical changes that influence the ways in which they perceive their bodies. In terms of weight and shape, it is generally understood that the pressures on women are more pronounced than those on men and furthermore, Western society generally equates beauty with youthfulness and thinness. The mass media of today is more widespread than ever before, particularly with the advent of social media and therefore is arguably the most powerful conveyer of socio-cultural ideals. As a result, the current generation of middle-aged women are perhaps more confronted by the challenges of ageing in a way that previous generations were not. This study aims to gain a better understanding of how women experience their bodies as they grow older. Semi-structured interviews were used with eight middle-aged women (age 50-60) to explore their experience of body image and ageing. Interviews were analysed using Giorgi’s Descriptive Phenomenological Method to arrive at a general structural description of the experience. Findings revealed that all participants are aware of body image in some form or another with the majority of participants becoming aware with the onset of puberty. Moreover, most of the women in the study were not happy with the physical changes that growing older has brought to their bodies but have become less critical of themselves and have developed an acceptance of who they are and what they cannot change. Relevance and implications to counselling psychology were considered throughout in terms of both theory and practice. This research highlights the need to consider an age group that often feels invisible due to society’s youthful ideals that equate youth with attractiveness and ageing with irrelevance.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
City, University of London (-2022) > School of Arts & Social Sciences
School of Arts & Social Sciences
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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