Body Image in Girl Guides: New Research by Dr Alison Owen & graduate Emily

By Dr Alison Owen, Lecturer in Psychology.

More than 400,000 girls meet regularly as Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and The Senior Section in the UK (Girlguiding, 2018). Together they learn skills, grow in confidence, make lifelong friendships, help their communities and have lots of fun (Girlguiding, 2018). Despite the positive skills that the members learn through the organisation, the ‘Girl’s Attitudes Survey’ (Girlguiding 2016), recorded that almost half of all its members aged between 11 and 21 claim that the way they look holds them back. Sixty-one percent of members aged between 7 and 21 were happy with the way they looked; indicating that almost 40% of the children and adolescents surveyed were unhappy with their appearance. The report published the survey results and explained that young girls have been victims of body criticism and that body dissatisfaction peaks as adolescents transition into becoming young adults.

Researchers at Staffordshire University decided to expand the findings of the ‘Girl’s Attitude Study’, and carry out a study looking at body image in a group of Girlguides using a qualitative approach. Emily Griffiths, who graduated from Staffordshire University’s BSc (Hons) Psychology course, carried out focus groups, speaking to groups of members at a local Girlguiding unit, about their thoughts and feelings about their bodies. Alongside Dr Alison Owen, the researchers analysed the findings from the focus groups, and four themes were identified: “Emotions and Feelings”, “Conversations and Critiques”, “Weight and Size” and “Influences on Body Image”. The results of the study found that on the whole, the participants reported having positive body image and feeling positively about their bodies, however they also identified areas that made them feel more negatively about their appearance, for example social media and the media in general.

Dr Owen continues to carry out research looking at body image in different sections of the population, and Dr Owen and Emily Griffiths are hoping to expand the research with members of Girlguiding in the future.

If you are interested in reading more about the study plaese visit the British Journal of School Nursing’s website:


Girlguiding (2016). Girls’ Attitudes Survey 2016. Available at

Girlguiding (2018). Our Mission. Available at

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