Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 2006


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Clinical Psychology


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Paul Richer

Committee Member

Anthony Barton

Committee Member

Eva-Maria Simms


Adolescent, Body Image, Embodiment, Female, Women


Adolescence can be a time of psychological vulnerability in the life cycle of a woman as she experiences multiple developmental changes. As articulated in the literature related to adolescent female development, a changing body may be at the heart of what can make this a time of profound transition for the adolescent girl as she attempts to negotiate alterations in her identity and self-concept, and consequently her social roles.

The purpose of this investigation of adolescent female embodiment was to understand the experience of adolescent girls as it relates to their changing bodies, and to explore the question of whether these experiences put them at risk for limitations and a loss of potential in their lives as adult women. Specifically, this investigation examined the vulnerability of the adolescent girl, as identified by Pipher, to a loss of wholeness, self-confidence, and self-direction that may continue into adulthood.

The means for illuminating these existential possibilities involved asking adult women to reflect upon and describe their experiences of adolescent bodily change in terms of how these changes had affected their view of themselves, their relationships with others, and their everyday lives, as well as the ways in which these experiences had affected their lives since adolescence.

The findings of this study of adolescent female embodiment indicate a profound unity between the body and the self, and supports previous research suggesting a strong unity between body image and self-concept in this population. Strong connections between alterations in the body/self and changes in familial and social relationships were also articulated by the participants of this study. Relationships cited as being most significantly affected, were those with their mothers, whom they felt had not prepared them for what was to come, and their relationships with male and female peers which were altered in relation to this new sense of confusion or lack of self-assuredness. The participants of the study also universally described their awareness of their bodies becoming objects in the world, and the limitations that this increased self-consciousness placed upon them and their freedoms. This investigation also identified individual struggles that the participants continue to engage in as adult women, struggles that involve developing a sense of autonomy and authenticity, and struggles to reclaim the self.

The results of this investigation are relevant for clinical assessment and intervention with adolescent girls and women as they make explicit some of the multiple losses and ransitions that make them potentially vulnerable to anxiety and depression, and which must be successfully negotiated by this population.