Reflections on Appearance Socialization During Childhood and Adolescence

Kim K.P. Johnson, Minjeong Kang, Jae Eun Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Appearance management includes "all activities and thought processes leading to the purchase and wear of clothing items as well as processes of body modification" (e.g., piercings, tattooing) (Kaiser, 1997, p. 5). We focused on investigating the processes of appearance socialization by uncovering the types of appearance management rules learned from or attributed to significant others as well as rules learned from other members of the socio-cultural environment experienced during childhood and adolescence. Within appearance management our focus was on rules related to body supplements (e.g., clothing, accessories) as well as rules concerning body modifications (e.g., tattoos, piercings). Our research questions were as follows: 1) What were the appearance management rules learned during childhood and adolescence? 2) From whom or what did these rules come from and how were individuals taught these rules? 3) What types of conflicts were experienced over rules of appearance management and how were these conflicts resolved? Data was collected from young adults (n = 43). Participants were asked to recall a specific time period during their childhood and adolescent years and to write about their experiences concerning what appearance "rules" they learned, how they learned them, and from whom. They were also asked to share any conflicts they experienced and how these conflicts were resolved. Many of the recollected rules centered on aesthetic concerns and contextual aspects of appearance management. Mothers were key socializing agents and at the center of conflicts over appearance. The most common resolution styles were compliance and problem solving.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-92
Number of pages14
JournalClothing and Textiles Research Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • adolescence
  • appearance
  • childhood
  • conflict
  • socialization


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