Body image in older adulthood : development and validation of a new integrative model and quantitative measure

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Psychology and Social Science


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Eyal Gringart


Although it is recognised that body image is significant to understanding fundamental issues of ageing and identity, research pertaining to older adults’ body image is scarce, and there is no specific measure with which to assess body image satisfaction among older adults. The aim of the current project was to develop a novel multidimensional integrative model of body image and a quantitative scale to assess body image satisfaction in older adulthood. To achieve this, the literature was reviewed, and an integrative model of body image development, bringing together a variety of viewpoints from a range of disciplines, was proposed. Subsequently the scale development process took place in five stages. In Stage 1, the relevance of the proposed integrative model was examined by seeking the opinions and experiences of 13 people over the age of 65. The proposed model was generally supported by the findings of the qualitative inquiry but some new themes emerged, and the model was revised. According to the revised model, body image is a dynamic multidimensional construct influenced by sociocultural environments, health and functional fitness, and physical and personal characteristics. Body image satisfaction is mediated by the extent of the discrepancy between one’s body reality and body ideal. To successfully negotiate this inconsistency and enhance body image satisfaction, people use a variety of body image management strategies in order to present to the outside world an image that is satisfactory to them. It is further argued that, over time, people reintegrate information obtained via social feedback and self-monitoring with the primary factors that influence body ideal and body reality development. Toward a quantitative measure of body image satisfaction, an initial pool of 77 items was developed (Stage 2) and scrutinised by 422 older adults in Stage 3. The aim was to produce a short and reliable scale, which would represent the body image construct in older adulthood. A scale reduction procedure using internal consistency and factor analytic methods was employed. The results suggested that the final 19-item, four-factor version could provide a simple, reliable and valid means of assessing older adults’ body image. The measure was then piloted, along with a social desirability scale, in Stage 4 with a random sample of 123 older adults. No evidence of social desirability bias was found, suggesting that participants' responses were honest. The 19 item scale was then tested, in Stage 5, for the convergent and divergent validities with a random sample of 243 older adults. Temporal reliability was assessed with a sample of 46 undergraduate students. This exploration of the new body image scale for older adults’ psychometric properties suggested that it was both reliable and valid. The newly developed Body Image Scale for Older Adults (BIS-OA) provides a tool to further the understanding of older adults’ body image and its relationship with other variables related to one’s quality of life. This, in turn, can inform policy-makers and professionals working with older adults to assist in the formulation of preventative as well as therapeutic interventions to help older adults develop a positive body image and enhance their quality of life.

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