Karachi, Jan 24 : A new study has shed light on the way women in Pakistan differently perceive their bodies, by showing that those who have studied in Urdu-medium schools are less concerned about their weight and body shape than those taught in English-medium schools.
Nargis Mahmud of the Department of Applied Psychology, F.G. College for Women and Nadia Crittenden of School of Psychology, University of Wollongong, Australia, carried out a comparative study of the body image of Australian and Pakistani young females.
She showed that along with increasing globalisation, a modern culture is coming up amongst the educated that touches all countries and places a more powerful importance on physical appearance, reports the Daily Times.
In the study, Mahmud found that although all the groups identified a similar body shape as the 'ideal', the Australian females expressed considerably higher levels of body displeasure on all measures of body image than did the Pakistani females.
The study compared body image attitudes in 149 Australian, 145 Pakistani Urdu-medium and 142 Pakistani English-medium women. The participants' ages ranged from 17 to 22.
Two samples of women were picked from Pakistan, as the very prestigious English-medium schools' women cannot be viewed as representative of the Pakistani female population. Thus, Urdu-medium women had to be included to incorporate the lay population.
In general, the Australian females showed considerably lower body esteem and greater body image dissatisfaction than did either group of Pakistani females on all measures of body image.
Unexpectedly, Pakistani females studying in English-medium colleges expressed significantly lower body image dissatisfaction, fewer body shape concerns and higher body esteem than did the Caucasian females.
Mahmud said that higher body esteem and lower body image dissatisfaction among the Pakistani females as compared with the Australian females could be attributed to the social, cultural and religious differences between the two groups.
Both Australian and Pakistani females indicated that their ideal body shape was significantly smaller than their actual body size. In fact, the ideal shape of both groups was found to be strikingly similar. Mahmud says that this indicates the importance of factors other than cultural standards.
While comparing the two Pakistani groups, the English-medium females expressed notably greater body shape concerns than did the Urdu-medium females.
The results also signify that the traditional standards of beauty among young Pakistani females of upper socio-economic groups are being replaced by what is attractive in Western terms.
Australian as well as Pakistani females perceived their current figure to be considerably larger than their ideal shape and the shape they thought was opposite-attractive and women-attractive.
According to Mahmud, this shows the similarity in the idealization of slimness across cultures, and also challenges the common view that Asian women's satisfaction with their bodies arises from a different ideal of body size and shape.
The study is published in the British Journal of Psychology.