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Motherhood can help deliver body image boost

Published: 19 June 2019 at 15:08

A young woman looking in the mirror

Study links perfectionism and breast size dissatisfaction – but only in childless women

New research indicates that perfectionism is related to breast size dissatisfaction, but only in non-mothers – suggesting that mothers are more comfortable with their bodies.

The study, carried out by Professor Viren Swami of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and academics from Sapienza University of Rome, has been published in the journal Body Image

Of the 484 Italian women surveyed, 69% reported breast size dissatisfaction with 44% wanting larger breasts.  These findings are similar to a previous study carried out by Professor Swami focusing on women in the UK. 

Perfectionistic self-presentation – the desire to create an image of flawlessness in the eyes of other people – is known to contribute towards negative body image. 

The study found that breast size dissatisfaction was associated with higher levels of two of the three factors behind perfectionistic self-presentation (non-display of imperfection and perfectionistic self-promotion).

However, this association was not found among the 54% of women surveyed who were mothers. This was particularly the case among women who had more than one child.

Viren Swami, Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, said:


“Our findings suggest that motherhood may help to decouple the link between perfectionistic self-presentation and breast size dissatisfaction.  

“There are a number of potential reasons why the association between perfectionistic self-presentation and breast size dissatisfaction was significant only amongst non-mothers.  There is the fact that becoming a mother naturally results in changes to the appearance of the breasts, particularly in terms of their size.  

“But perhaps the most relevant is that becoming a mother – and particularly the experience of breastfeeding – may focus women’s attention on breast functionality as opposed to focusing on the aesthetics of breasts and the body.”