The Relationship Between
Body Image
Gender Identity

Maureen L. Farrell

BackgroundResearch QuestionMethod
ResultsImplicationsRelevant Links

   Research on adolescents pertaining to  body image  and dissatisfaction has shown that there are  many factors which influence the production of body image dissatisfaction.   Adolescents have many  pressures such as: media, parents, and peers,  which could  be predictors of dissatisfaction   (Dunkley, Wertheirm, &  Paxton, 1996).  According to Wood, Becker, and Thompson  (1996),  girls have a significantly greater dissatisfaction   with  their bodies than boys and said that they have a desire to be thinner than their current figures.  Researchers have also suggested  that a higher level of body  satisfaction was  associated with a  higher level of self-esteem,   in both males and females  (Koff, Rierdan, & Stubbs, 1990).
Research Question

   This study's goals were to determine the relationship between gender identity and perceived body satisfaction.



   Participants were selected from an elementary school in a small suburb outside of Boston, Massachusetts.    A total of 22 females from 9 to 10 years of age were recruited.  Each participant provided a conformed consent from their parents.

     The materials for this study consisted of two  questionnaires, The Children Sex Role Inventory (Boldizar, 1991) and The  Health Rating Questionnaire (Farrell, 2000).

  The Children's Sex Role Inventory (CSRI).   The Children's Sex Role Inventory is a measure of sex typing and androgyny  in children and was developed  by Boldizar (1991), based on the Bem Sex  Role Inventory (BSRI:  Bem, 1974).  The CSRI contains 60 items  with three sub  scales: femininity, neutral, and masculinity.  The child rates each statement on a point scale: 4=very true of me, 3=mostly true of me, 2=a little true  of me, and 1=not at all true of me.  Reliability was established through  high internal consistency of femininity and masculinity scales  (average    = .81)  and test-retest reliabilities averaging .60.

  Health Rating Questionnaire.  The Health Rating Questionnaire was developed by  Farrell (2000) to investigate a child's understanding of their own health and the health of others.  The questionnaire is composed of 7 silhouettes of female figures.  Each figure varies in shape and size.  The child is asked to rate each figure on a 5 point anchored  scale for five different factors related to health as follows: 1(sick) to  5 (healthy);  1 (ugly) to 5 (pretty);  1 (sad) to 5 (happy); 1 (weak) to 5(strong); 1 (unkind) to 5 (nice).

     After receiving signed  consent from a parent or guardian,  each participant was given two  questionnaires and  seven figure     drawings in  a packet in a classroom setting.  The order of the questionnaires consisted of the CSRI first, then the HRQ, and participants  were asked to complete them  in that order.  All participants  completed the two questionnaires in 40 minutes.  All participants were  debriefed upon finishing the questionnaires.



   Descriptive statistics are provided for the seven silhouettes by size for all of the following ratings:  healthy, pretty, happy, strong, and kind.
   A series of one-way analysis of variance (ANOVAs) were conducted to examine whether body image size was related to the aforementioned ratings. A significant finding was found for the ANOVA for unhappy.   A significant effect was also found for weak.  The results from the ANOVA on sick, unhappy, and unkind, were not statistically significant. 
   Pearson Correlation's were calculated for Figure 3 (fat), Figure 4 (average), and Figure 6 (skinny).
   Masculinity was correlated in the predicted direction for ugly and unhappy for Figure 3.  There was no significant correlation for femininity.  For those who scored higher in androgyny, projected the larger girl as sick.  Figure 4 demonstrated a significant correlation between masculinity and sick. There were no significant correlations between femininity and androgyny and any of the ratings.

  The results indicate that there are important and significant differences, as well as consistencies for  gender and body image.  It is clear that gender identity relates to ones perception of body image.

The hypothesis of this study postulated that masculinity will show a strong relationship to a more positive body image. It was also hypothesized that those who scored higher in femininity will have a more negative body image.

            The study indicates that there is definitely a relationship between gender roles and the understanding of  body image.  It is          important to identify those characteristics of a preadolescent girl and the influence it  has  on her perceptions of health and body image.  Future research is important to provide a better  understanding of preadolescent views and perceptions on different health issues.  Evidence suggests  that  preadolescent girls have already shown a desire for thinness (Schreiber & Robins, 1996).  It is         important  to address this issue due to the implications of eating disorders and body image  dissatisfaction at such a  young age.

             In addition, future research could  help establish school programs on what it means to be healthy and  clarify what it means to be in good health, which, in turn, lead  to a healthier perception of body image for  oneself and others.

Relevant Links

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