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Adolescent Appearance Behavior Study Wins Annual ITAA "Best Paper" Award

Nov. 16, 2009

Dr. Jay Yoo, assistant professor of Fashion Merchandising, was awarded "Best Paper" in the category of psychological/social category by the International Textiles and Apparel Association for his study on adolescent body modification behaviors.

The study revealed that adolescents who are more susceptible to peer influences are more likely to engage in skin waxing and tanning than those who are not.

Yoo's study focused on the impact of peer influence on adolescent boys, aged 12-17, and their appearance management behaviors--the manner in which adolescents altered their appearance. The study identified the types of appearance management behaviors adolescents engaged in as well as assess whether participants viewed those behaviors as healthy.

"In the field of clothing and textiles, appearance actually comprises of many things, such as clothing or any modification actually made onto the human body." For Yoo, this meant finding out what modifications adolescents were making onto their bodies as well as finding out if peer influence was a factor.

Using both a survey and a chi-square test, Yoo separated the participants who were more susceptible to peer influence from those who were not. Within peer influence Yoo further divided adolescents into whether they were more susceptible to peer informative influence (accepting information or advice from peers) and peer normative influence (conforming to the positive expectations of peers).

The modifications that Yoo looked at included factors such as: exercising, weight lifting, body piercing, taking diet pills, visiting the spa, restricting food to lose weight and waxing skin to remove hair. He found that the adolescent boys who were more susceptible to peer normative influence engaged in activities such as skin waxing more than adolescents who had lower levels of peer normative influence. Additionally, he discovered that adolescents who were more susceptible to peer informative influence were engaging in activities such as sun bathing and using a tanning booth more than those who had lower levels of peer informative influence.

"Sun bathing and using a tanning bed were categorized [by the participants] as two different areas," said Yoo. "Tanning is tanning... but for teenagers sun tanning is one thing and using a tanning bed is another." Yoo noted that both activities carried the same risk such as wrinkles and cancer, yet the study found that neither peer informative nor normative influence had an impact on how adolescents perceived the risk of these behaviors.

"Appearance management behavior is a good thing, but we should guide what's not healthy and what's healthy," said Yoo. He suggested that it was the responsibility of K-12 teachers to educate students on the dangers of some types of appearance modification. "If it's not healthy we should inform them of the benefits and risks of that behavior."

The ITAA conference recognizes participant's papers in areas such as consumer behavior, textile and apparel science, and psychological aspects.