Parental confirmation and emerging adult children’s body image : self-concept and social competence as mediators
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Although the role of family factors in the development of body image is well documented, the mechanism of how family interactions are related to body image remains inadequately understood. Moreover, extant body image literature examining the role of family factors has largely focused on mother-daughter relationships, limiting our understanding on fathers’ roles and sons’ experiences. The purpose of this project was to address limitations in extant literature from a communicative perspective. Based on confirmation theory (Dailey, 2010), this project examined (a) how each component of parental confirmation (acceptance and challenge) was individually and interactively related to emerging adults’ body image, (b) how these associations were mediated by social competence and self-concept, and (c) how hypothesized links differed by parental and child sex. Male and female college students (N = 447; 319 females) responded to a series of online surveys. Collectively, the results provided general support for the proposed mediation model. There were minimal child sex differences, whereas there were some differences in hypothesized associations depending on the parental sex. For mothers’ communication behaviors, the positive association between mother acceptance and body image was fully mediated by social competence and self-concept together, and mother challenge enhanced the positive effect of mother acceptance on body image through self-concept (but not through social competence). In terms of fathers’ communication behaviors, the positive association between father acceptance and body image was partially mediated by self-concept. Further, father acceptance and father challenge interacted to predict body image directly, without being mediated by the proposed mediators, such that father challenge enhanced the positive effect of father acceptance on body image. Altogether, the findings of this study suggest that acceptance and challenge are associated with emerging adults’ body image through a somewhat different mechanism depending on parent sex (but not child sex). This research underscores the utility of employing a confirmation perspective in understanding the mechanisms of how family interactions are related to body image.