School of Psychological Science

Postgraduate Profiles


Michelle Jongenelis

Phone: (+61 8) 6488 1417


Start date

Mar 2008

Submission date

Mar 2013

Curriculum vitae

Michelle Jongenelis CV
[doc, 93.95 kb]
Updated 06 Aug 2012

Michelle Jongenelis

Michelle Jongenelis profile photo


The role of objectification in the development of eating disorder symptomatology in young children


Eating disorders are serious illnesses associated with severe psychological, physiological, and psychosocial impairments. Eating disorder symptoms that do not meet criteria for a full threshold clinical disorder, such as over-concern about weight and shape, body dissatisfaction, restrictive eating, and maladaptive weight control methods, are also associated with significant impairments, and if left untreated may lead to the development of a diagnosable eating disorder and chronic physical and psychological pathology. Given the pervasiveness of body dissatisfaction among females in society and the significant prevalence of eating disorder symptomatology amongst both males and females, investigating the predictors and psychological mechanisms that underpin eating disorder symptoms is imperative.

Researchers have identified a number of individual, interpersonal, biological and sociocultural factors that appear to increase the risk of developing an eating disorder. Of interest to the present thesis is one specific sociocultural factor, objectification, and how it interacts with other risk factors to predict eating disorder symptoms. Objectification occurs whenever an individual’s body or body parts are separated out from them as a person or regarded as separate entities capable of representing the person as a whole (Bartky, 1990; Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). Whilst theoretical models that account for objectification and its association with eating disorder symptomatology have been proposed and investigated in older populations, no investigations of objectification appear to have been conducted in preadolescents and children. As such, the role of objectification in the development of cognitive and behavioural eating disorder symptoms and potential gender differences in the experience of objectification are poorly understood in this population.

My thesis aims to extend and integrate previous research on objectification and the role it plays in the development of eating disorder symptoms. Specifically, it aims to examine the antecedents and consequences of objectification in a sample of preadolescent boys and girls through the longitudinal testing and evaluation of proposed theoretical models of objectification. These models examine objectification and its consequences in the context of other factors associated with eating disorder symptoms such as body dissatisfaction and media influences.

Why my research is important

Given that the objectification of males and females in popular culture has the potential to result in negative psychological consequences in children, the examination of these phenomena and how they impact on disordered eating in children is important. This information could be crucial in informing media literacy interventions and general prevention programs aimed at reducing body image issues in children. As little is known about the effects of viewing and internalising objectifying images on children, examining the influence of these phenomena in this population and tailoring prevention programs based on the information uncovered may reduce the potential for the development of an eating disorder or other psychopathologies in adolescence, thus having important implications for child and adolescent mental health.


  • Butterfly Research Institute PhD Top-up Scholarship
  • Australian Postgraduate Award
  • University Postgraduate Award


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