Some of us are very familiar with mothers who endlessly hound their daughters to sit up straight, stop biting their nails, and never leave the house without a little lipstick. But no matter how beauty-obsessed mom seems, it may actually be dad who subliminally encourages us to undergo cosmetic surgery.
According to research published in a recent edition of Psychology of Women Quarterly, paternal attitudes about appearance influence the way women feel about plastic surgery, including acceptance and interest. Study authors and psychology professors Donna Henderson-King and Kelly D. Brooks came to this conclusion by asking more than 200 college women questions about their parents’ focus on attractiveness, and about their own attitudes towards cosmetic procedures.
Although maternal attitudes don’t seem to make much of a difference, a woman whose father focused on physical appearance is more likely to not only be accepting of cosmetic surgery, but to also consider or desire surgery for themselves. This is especially true of heavier women with a higher BMI (body mass index).
The researchers also noticed that having an appearance-focused father is linked to seeing social reasons as acceptable motives for cosmetic surgery.
“It may be that, in their relationships with their daughters, fathers who transmit messages about the importance of physical appearance tend to do so in a way that highlights the extrinsic rewards that attractiveness can draw,” the authors wrote. “In doing so, fathers may be attempting to enhance their daughters’ social capital, but at the same time they may be (intentionally or not) increasing the likelihood that their daughters will look to cosmetic surgery as a way to achieve this goal.”
The authors stress that they support the right of individuals to make decisions about their own bodies and that they are not arguing that cosmetic surgery should be avoided. However, their findings broach understandable concern that women may be unduly pressured to undergo surgery for reasons other than their own independent, personal desires.
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