Adolescent Sexting: The Roles of Self-Objectification and Internalization of Media Ideals



We examined adolescent sexting using objectification theory as a framework. We hypothesized that sexting is a manifestation of trait self-objectification and the internalization of gender-specific media ideals about attractiveness. We conducted a cross-sectional survey of 201 Midwestern adolescents, 14–17 years old. We tested a three-stage path model, which differed for female and male adolescents. For female adolescents, self-objectification was positively associated with favorable attitudes about sexting, which further predicted two types of intentions to engage in sexting: sexting when there is trust in the sexting partner (security-based intentions) and sexting that is spurred by situational cues. Although there was a serial mediation effect of self-objectification on sexting behaviors through sexting attitudes and total sexting intentions, only the indirect effect of sexting attitudes on behaviors through security-based intentions was individually significant. For male adolescents, internalization of media ideals was positively associated with sexting attitudes, which further predicted the two types of sexting intentions. Similar to female adolescents, there was a serial mediation effect of internalization of media ideals on sexting behaviors through sexting attitudes and total sexting intentions; however, only security-based sexting intentions predicted sexting behaviors. Our results have implications regarding how to conceptualize adolescent sexting and how researchers, parents, and educators may help teenage youth to establish healthy sexting attitudes and behaviors. Additional online materials for this article are available to PWQ subscribers on PWQ’s website at
Date made available2018

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