Exploring the factors influencing the beliefs about and attitudes toward menstruation of a group of South African female University students

Pietersen, Bronwen Ilke (2018-03)

Psychology

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Menstruation is a natural phenomenon that most women experience. Despite being a sign of sexual development and maturation, in many contexts menstruation is socially constructed and stigmatised as a taboo. Although some cultures celebrate menstruation as a rite of passage, many cultures tend to hold negative attitudes towards and stigmatise menstruation. Consequently, menstrual stigma often compels women to conceal their menstrual status and women tend to internalise the outsider’s perspective about their bodies. This self-objectification, characterised by body surveillance and body shame, could have adverse physiological and psychological consequences for young women, such as appearance and safety anxiety, reduced concentration on mental and physical tasks, lowered self-esteem, and negative attitudes towards menstruation. The primary aim of this study was to explore whether female university students’ attitudes towards menstruation differed in terms of age and religion. The secondary aim was to explore whether female university students’ evaluation of self and their bodies differed in terms of age. Further, this study also explored a number of possible biological, psychological and social factors, as predictors of attitudes towards menstruation. This study was guided by the biopsychosocial model, feminist and objectification theory to understand the complexity of women’s attitudes towards menstruation and the contextual factors influencing these attitudes. In this quantitative study, I used convenience sampling to recruit the 1517 female participants, aged 18 to 36 years. I employed a cross-sectional, on-line survey, using The Beliefs about and Attitudes toward Menstruation questionnaire, two subscales from the Objectified Body Consciousness Scale (Body Surveillance and Body Shame) and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, to collect the data. Analysis of the data revealed that (1) compared to early adult women (24 to 36 years), emerging adult women (18 to 23 years) were more likely to believe that menstruation should be kept a secret and had proscriptions and prescriptions regarding menstruation, (2) emerging adult women were more likely than early adult women to engage in body surveillance and body shame; (3) there were significant religious differences regarding secrecy and, proscriptions and prescriptions about menstruation between these groups; and (4) various biological, psychological and social factors predicted the women’s attitudes towards menstruation. However, age differences were not significant for self-esteem between these groups. The findings suggest that emerging and early adult women differ in their attitudes towards menstruation and tend to engage in self-objectification. Multi-sectoral, psycho-education interventions should be implemented to address the taboos, secrecy and shame surrounding menstruation and women’s bodies.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Menstruasie is ’n natuurlike verskynsel wat deur die meeste vroue ervaar word. Ten spyte daarvan dat dit ’n teken van ontwikkeling en rypwording is, word menstruasie in baie gevalle as taboe sosiaal voorgestel en gestigmatiseer. Alhoewel menstruasie binne sommige kulture as ’n oorgangsfase na volwassenheid gevier word, het baie kulture ’n negatiewe houding teenoor menstruasie en word dit gestigmatiseer. Gevolglik noop die stigmatisering van menstruasie dikwels vroue om hul maandstonde geheim te hou. Verder neig vroue om buitestaanders se siening oor hul liggame te internaliseer. Hierdie selfverobjektivering, wat deur selfbewaking en skaamte van die liggaam gekenmerk word, kan nadelige fisiologiese en sielkundige gevolge vir jong vroue inhou. Voorbeelde hiervan sluit onder andere angstigheid oor hul voorkoms en veiligheid, verminderde konsentrasie vir denkvermoë en fisiese take, verlaagde selfagting, en negatiewe houdings teenoor menstruasie, in. Die primêre doel van hierdie studie was om te ondersoek hoe die houdings van vroulike universiteitstudente teenoor menstruasie in terme van ouderdom en godsdiens verskil. Die sekondêre doel was om by vroulike universiteitstudente hul evaluering van die self en hul liggame in terme van ouderdom vas te stel. ’n Veskeidenheid van moontlike biologiese, sielkundige en sosiale faktore as voorspellers van houdings teenoor menstruasie word verder in hierdie studie ondersoek. Die bio-psigo-sosiale model, die feministiese- en objektiveringsteorie vorm die grondslag van hierdie studie om sodoende die kompleksiteit van vroue se houdings teenoor menstruasie en die faktore binne ‘n spesifieke verband wat hierdie gesindhede beïnvloed, te verstaan. In hierdie kwantitatiewe studie maak ek gebruik van ‘n gerieflikheidsteekproef om 1517 vroulike deelnemers, tussen die ouderdomme 18 tot 36, te werf. Ek het ‘n kruissnit, aanlyn opname en het “The Beliefs about and Attitudes toward Menstruation Questionnaire”, twee subskale van die “Objectified Body Consciousness Scale (Body Surveillance and Body Shame)” en die “Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale” gebruik, om die data in te samel. ’n Analise van die data toon dat (1) ontluikende volwasse vroue meer geneig is om te glo dat menstuasie geheim gehou moet word en het ook bepaalde voorskrywings en voorskrifte aangaande menstruasie; (2) ontluikende volwasse vroue is geneig tot selfbewaking en skaamte van die liggaam;(3) daar was beduidende godsdienstige verskille aangaande geheimhouding en, voorskrywings en voorskrifte oor menstruasie tussen hierdie groepe; en (4) verskeie biologiese, sielkundige en sosiale faktore voorspel die vroue se houdings ten opsigte van mestruasie. Ouderdom veskille was egter nie beduidend vir selfagting tussen hierdie groepe nie. Die bevindinge veronderstel dat onluikende en vroeë volwasse vroue verskil in hulle houdings ten opsigte van menstruasie en neig tot selfobjektivering. Multi-sektorale, psigo-opvoedingsintervensies behoort geïmplementeer te word om die taboe, geheimhouding en skaamte rondom menstruasie en die liggame van vroue aan te spreek.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/103846
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