A Participatory Photovoice Study Exploring Girlhood in Rural Appalachia.

1Jamison D, 1Stainfield T, 1Casapulla S, 2Murray G, 2Cobb O
1Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, Athens, Ohio, United states; 2Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, United states

Background: For the purpose of this study, 'girlhood' is defined as the developmental period in which a young female begins to recognize a self-identity, and how it is influenced by the social norms and personal relationships during the stages of adolescence. Several studies have investigated young girls’ perceptions of ‘girlhood’ but none have looked at Appalachian girls’ perceptions of girlhood. Athens County (n=66,186), one of the poorest Appalachian counties in Ohio, has 28% of the population living in poverty. Ohio University Women’s Center manages a year-long program for middle school girls, The Young Women’s Leadership Program (YWLP). The YWLP program pairs a college-aged women mentor with middle-school girl mentees who meet for 2 hours, weekly, at the middle school to complete a leadership curriculum. To assess ‘girlhood’ perceptions of Appalachian young girls in the YWLP program, this study was conducted in one of the area’s 5 middle schools with a total enrollment of 388 students. Approximately 35% of the school’s population is economically disadvantaged. Objective: This project develops foundations for personal perceptions and knowledge gaps of the young girls’ world views. The goals of this study are to explore the concept of girlhood as seen by rural, Appalachian adolescent girls and to assess the impact of culture and media outlets on the girls' self-perception. Methods: To better understand the young girls’ perceptions, this study utilized a participatory approach called PhotoVoice. A PhotoVoice project uses visual, participatory photographic documentation to conduct qualitative, community-based research. Through photography, the girls participating in the YWLP program will explore what ‘girlhood’ means to them. With guided discussions, the participants discussed specifics topics and then took photos based on related prompts throughout the year. After the photos are taken, the participants reviewed and defined the photos together as a group by looking for similarities and differences in how they perceive their world. Results: Six middle school aged girls consented to participate in the study. While this study is ongoing, data collection and analysis will be completed in the spring of 2018. The first of four focus group sessions explored “What do you think it means to be a girl." Preliminary results from this first focus group suggest that participants are acutely aware of yet resist the societal pressures on adolescent girls. They perceive girls as strong, and believe girls should have autonomy in choosing how to portray themselves. Subsequent focus group sessions will further explore healthy relationships and related topics. References: Andrew, al. (2016). Predictors and health-related outcomes of positive body image in adolescent girls: A prospective study. Developmental Psychology, 52(3), 463-474. Cribb, V. L. et al. (2015). Girls feeling good at school: School gender environment, internalization and awareness of socio-cultural attitudes associations with self-esteem in adolescent girls. Journal of Adolescence, 46, 107-114.