The relationship between body composition and the level of happiness and satisfaction experienced by 12 to 15 year0old girls in the north west province: the thusa bana study

Por: A. W. Nienaber, Colette Underhay, J. C. Maritz, J. H. de Ridder e M. Coetzee.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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This study attempts to propose a basis for the psycho-social evaluation of adolescents by focusing on the relationship between psychological thinking and physical appearance in the case of female adolescents, with differences in age and race. Because of the value attached by society to physical characteristics and their impact on the development of adolescent self-image, an investigation into the female perception of the ideal ’self’ may contribute to providing a culturally relevant self-image improving intervention.

The THUSA BANA research project was an inter-disciplinary project of the Health Sciences Faculty of the Potchefstroom University in South Africa. A one-off cross-sectional research design was used, and the research method employed was descriptive research. The anthropometric variables and techniques selected were those described in Norton & Olds [1]. Data analysis was performed using Statistica 6 (StatSoft, Inc., 1984-2003). The total number of test subjects identified for the THUSA BANA research project consisted of 1257 children between the ages of 10 and 15 years. This study focused on a sub-population of the project, namely 12 to 15 year-old girls (N=337). From this sub-population a division was also made according to ethnicity. 50 of these girls were white, 216 black, 50 coloured and 21 Indian girls. A stratified random sample was used. Regions and schools were randomly selected with regard to population density, and a group of girls in the age group 12 to 15 years were randomly selected from each school.


The highest percentage body fat of 28,8% ± 6.5 was found among the 13 year-old Indian girls, while the lowest percentage body fat of 21,3% ± 6,5 was found among the 12 year-old black girls. An average percentage body fat of 22,8% ± 6.9 was calculated for the total group of girls. The average value, as well as the minimum value that occurs in 12 year-old black girls, lies within the optimal limits (between 15% and 25,5%) [2]. The maximum fat percentage value of 28,8% which were found among the 13 year-old Indian girls and therefore lies in the relatively high fat percentage category (between 25,5% and 30%). The total average values of the fat percentage in black and coloured girls were 23,6% and 22,9% respectively, which is classified as normal [2]. The average fat percentage values of the total group of white and Indian girls of 26% and 25,5% respectively will accordingly be classified as moderately high. The average value for happiness and satisfaction in the total group of girls (N=337) is 7,8 ± 1,8. Die highest average value of happiness is observed among the 12 year-old Indian girls (9,2 ± 0,8). The lowest value of happiness is 7,3 ± 2,9 and represents the 14 year-old coloured girls. Happiness and satisfaction was classified as low (<6), moderate (≥6 to 9,6) and high (>9,6), according to calculated averages. The extent of happiness in the total group of girls (x = 7,8) can therefore be classified as moderate. Statistically significant differences (p<0,05) were found between the 14 year-old coloured girls and the 12 year-old Indian girls.


An interesting trend is observed between happiness and related increases in age. It appears as if a relatively lower level of happiness and satisfaction is experienced at the age of 13 years by the different ethnic groups. Various possible reasons may be responsible for this trend. Children of age 12 and 13 years are mainly influenced by their friends and peer group with regard to a socially acceptable norm for their physical appearance [3]. The influence of social comparison in regard of the development of a body image, however, still has to be investigated in prepubertal children.
Acknowledgement: The contribution of all the research assistants in these studies is publicly acknowledged This study was also made possible by the contributions of the following institutions: SA Sugar Association; Medical Research Council of South-Africa; Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education; Department of Trade and Industry through the THRIP system.


[1]. Norton, K. & Olds, T. (1996). Anthropometrica: A textbook of body measurement for sport and health courses. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press.
[2]. Lohman, T.G. (1992). The prevalence of obesity in children in the United States. In V.H. Heyward, & L.M. Stolarzyk (Eds.), Advances in body composition assessment. Champaign: Human Kinetics Publishers. 150p.).
[3]. McCabe, P., & Ricciardelli, A. (2001). Children’s body image concerns and eating disturbances : A review of the literature. Clinical Psychology Review, 21(3):325-344.




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