Research in the area of body image has shown that females have more dissatisfaction with their bodies than males, but that males also have concerns with some aspects of body image. Instructors in wellness courses designed for college freshmen have the opportunity to address these challenges.
PURPOSE: to determine which components of body image display gender differences, and whether gender differences in certain aspects of body image are related to BMI.
METHODS: The Body Self-Image Questionnaire was administered to students in a freshman Wellness course as a part of their physical fitness assessment which included BMI (N=130 F, 50 M). Data were analyzed with a 2 x 2 factorial ANOVA to evaluate both effects of BMI and Gender and their interactions. All nine subscales of the BSIQ were included: Overall Appearance Evaluation (OAE), Fatness Evaluation (FE), Health/Fitness Evaluation (HFE), Health/Fitness Influence (HFI), Attention to Grooming (AG), Social Dependence (SD), Height Dissatisfaction (HD), Negative Affect (NA), and Investment in Ideals (II). For the analysis, BMI values <25.0 kg/m2 were classified as “normal” (NW); values ≥25 kg/m2 were categorized as “overweight” (OW).
RESULTS: In SD, there was a significant main effect for gender, with females scoring higher in the factor of social dependence (p=.0138). There was a main effect for gender in HD, with males being more dissatisfied with their height than females (p=.0103). An interaction existed between gender and BMI for height dissatisfaction, with a greater gender disparity in HD in normal weight students (M>F) than in OW students, where differences almost disappeared. The main effect for gender in FE indicated that females view themselves as fatter than males (p=.0015); not surprisingly, there was also a main effect in FE for BMI (p<.0001; OW>Nor). A main effect for BMI existed in OAE (p<.0001; Nor>OW); II (p=.0373; Nor>OW); HFE (p<.0001; Nor>OW); and NA (p=.0003, OW>Nor). A gender-BMI interaction existed in HFI (p=.0098) indicating that OW males felt that health and fitness influenced feelings about their bodies more so than OW females; in Nor students, gender differences were very small.
CONCLUSION: The belief that females have more body image concerns than males is valid in some components of body image, and BMI attenuates some gender differences.