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Understanding body image in physical education : current knowledge and future directions

Kerner, Charlotte and Haerens, Leen and Kirk, David (2018) Understanding body image in physical education : current knowledge and future directions. European Physical Education Review, 24 (2). pp. 255-265. ISSN 1356-336X

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Body image disturbance in children and adolescents has negative implications for psychological and physical well-being. To positively impact well-being, it is important to explore factors that influence body image and to identify strategies that can be used to reduce body image disturbance. The school curriculum can play a significant role in shaping how children and adolescents experience their bodies. Within this school curriculum, physical education lessons represent one of the only school subjects in which the body is a focus of curricular outcomes. In physical education, the body is judged for physical ability but is also situated in a space that provides the potential for social comparisons and body judgements. Significant attention has been paid to the development of classroom-based interventions that aim at reducing body image disturbance, yet physical education has largely been ignored as a context in which one can effectively intervene. This paper reviews current knowledge on the relationship between physical education and body image disturbance by using the cognitive-behavioural model of body image developments as a guiding framework. It also considers the contribution that physical education could make to wider school based interventions.