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Body image satisfaction is an important issue during adolescence because of the tremendous physical, cognitive, and social changes that occur during this developmental period. In addition to its importance developmentally, body image satisfaction has received attention due to its central role as a risk factor in predicting self-esteem, eating disorders, and psychological adjustment. Although the research on body image has primarily focused on girls (Stice and Whitenton, 2002; Thompson et al., 1999; Wertheim et al., 2001), increasing recognition of the psychosocial problems associated with body dissatisfaction among boys has led to the need to understand the factors influencing body image for males (Cohane and Pope, 2001; Smolak et al., 2001).
The desire to develop muscularity has emerged as a central issue associated with male body image (Fisher et al., 2002; McCreary and Sasse, 2000; Rauste-von Wright, 1989; Ricciardelli and McCabe, 2004). The sociocultural pressure for the ideal muscular build has been increasingly evident in recent years in the greater muscular bulk of male action toys and magazine models (Leit et al., 2001; Pope et al., 1999). These trends have seemingly had a negative impact on adolescent boys in that the drive for muscularity has been related to lower self-esteem and greater depression (McCreary and Sasse, 2000). Moreover, concern with muscularity has been associated with strategies to increase muscularity, such as body building, excessive exercise, and anabolic steroid use (Ricciardelli and McCabe, 2003), with heightened body dissatisfaction (Labre, 2002; Smolak et al., 2001), and body image disturbances (Olivardia et al., 2000; Pope et al., 1997).
Male body dissatisfaction has also been related to weight concerns (Cohane and Pope, 2001; Ricciardelli and McCabe, 2001, 2003). Recent studies have demonstrated that body size as indicated by body mass index (BMI) has been positively related to body dissatisfaction among preadolescent and adolescent boys (Jones et al., 2004; Lewinsohn et al., 2002; Paxton et al., 1991; Ricciardelli et al., 2003). For boys, the concern with weight has emerged primarily for individuals who have had the highest BMI levels whereas for girls, weight concerns have been evident across all BMI levels (Field et al., 2001). Still, the results have indicated that, like girls, boys with elevated adiposity have been most likely to have negative feelings about their bodies.
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When examined as a whole, the pattern of results suggests that weight and muscular build are distinct aspects of body dissatisfaction for boys. However, there has been little empirical research to determine the relationship between weight and muscularity concerns and their linkage to body dissatisfaction. This oversight has been due in part to a failure to obtain separate assessments of these conceptually distinct types of concerns (Cohane and Pope, 2001). The present study overcame this limitation by evaluating both weight and muscularity concerns in boys. The prediction of body dissatisfaction was tested in a model that also integrated individual characteristics (BMI and grade level) and sociocultural influences from peers.
The conceptual model that guided this research is presented in Fig. 1. The primary expectation of the current study was that weight and muscularity concerns represent dual pathways that would make significant yet distinct positive contributions to body dissatisfaction for boys. Based on previous research, it was expected that boys who expressed greater concern with these aspects of their appearance would experience greater negative affect about their body image. The levels of concern with weight and muscularity were themselves conceptualized as reflecting physical (BMI), developmental (grade level), and social influences (peer appearance context).
The primary biological characteristic represented in the model was BMI. Previous research has supported the expectation that elevated BMI would be related positively to weight concerns (Field et al., 2001) and body dissatisfaction (Jones et al., 2004). Although the relationship between BMI and muscularity concerns has not been previously reported, lower BMI status has been related to some muscle gaining behaviors (Neumark-Sztainer et al., 1999). Therefore, the model posited a positive linkage between BMI and weight concerns and a negative one with muscularity concerns.