Archive for the ‘Peer Reviewed Academic Journal Articles’ Category

Low body image in teen males may lead to risky behaviors

April 9, 2012 1 comment

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By Alicia Deily

This particular journal article does not focus directly on the media’s relation to male body image. Instead it focuses on how teens with body image dissatisfaction often engage in risky behaviors. The media is a major factor in creating low self esteem in teen males; this also may lead to bullying.

These risky behaviors include sustaining intentional and unintentional injuries, physical confrontations, drug use, depression and possible suicide. Since female body image issues are frequently talked about, girls suffering from these issues may feel more comfortable seeking help. Teen males have few places to turn to and are often taught to suppress their feelings. These feelings may emerge in aggressive or dangerous ways.

“Idealized body images are constantly presented in the media and have a strong impact on how adolescents relate to their physical and psychosocial environments. Maladaptive behaviors have been associated with body image disturbance.” For the purposes of this article, body image is defined as “the internal subjective representation of physical appearance and bodily experience.

The article suggests that school health officials recognize this problem and begin to offer solutions for teen males. They need places where they will feel comfortable seeking help. Recognizing sign of depression, drug use and bullying are also suggested. It is suggested that school officials educate parents on the media affects of male body image. This can be done through educational materials or during parent-teacher meetings. I think this is an important problem and it is good to see suggestions for change offered.

Sourced from (APA)- LEONE, J. E., FETRO, J. V., KITTLESON, M., WELSHIMER, K. J., PARTRIDGE, J. A., & ROBERTSON, S. L. (2011). Predictors of Adolescent Male Body Image Dissatisfaction: Implications for Negative Health Practices and Consequences for School Health From a Regionally Representative Sample. Journal Of School Health, 81(4), 174-184. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2010.00577.x

The pressure to be perfect: college students and the media

By Alicia Deily

A 2010 study interviewed 224 students enrolled in a communications class at a large southern university; 45% of the participants were men. The study looked at the differences between how men’s and women’s body image is affected by the media. The survey asked about exposure to various aspects of the media (magazines, TV, etc.), levels of personal perfectionism, pressures from family, levels of perceived peer pressure,  and levels of body related self esteem.

The results showed that women received more pressure than men to attain an ideal body from their peers. For men the biggest pressure came from their families. Family pressures were also the biggest predictor for men having low self esteem. The reason for this may be that men tend to talk less with their peers about body concerns. Men bond by talking about less personal topics like sports or politics.

In this particular study, both male and female students did not cite the media as having a major effect on their body self esteem. The study did find that simply being exposed to television and magazines with ideal images, did not affect body image. The act of comparing oneself to the images did significantly decrease body image for both men and women.

Sourced from (APA)- Sheldon, P. (2010). Pressure To Be Perfect: Influences on College Students’ Body Esteem. Southern Communication Journal, 75(3), 277-298. doi:10.1080/10417940903026543

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What factors affect a man’s body image?

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This study from 2009 looks at how a man’s body image is affected by three factors. These factors are the level of exposure to men’s muscle magazines, body mass index (BMI), and social comparison. This study was done because “unrealistic images of male beauty are on the rise” and less research has been done on men than on women.

Researchers tend to believe that the same theoretical models about body satisfaction that apply to women also apply to men. No one has actually proven this theory yet, so they may be completely different.

The study was done on undergraduate male students at Northeastern University. They had taken a communications class and were offered extra credit for participating in a survey. The survey asked about the participants height and weight (which determined their BMI). The average weight was 176.8 lbs and the average height was 5’10. They were also asked about how often they looked at men’s fitness magazines and lastly they were asked how they would compare their body to others.

The study found that a man’s BMI may determine if and how much they expose themselves to men’s fitness magazines. The men who expose themselves to this content usually have a poorer self image because they are actively seeking this content to improve their bodies. The more they are exposed to this ideal, the more unrealistic their expectations may become. These finding may suggest  that male body image is formed differently than women’s.

Sourced from (APA)- JONASON, P. K., KRCMAR, M., & SOHN, S. (2009). MALE BODY IMAGE: THE ROLE OF MUSCLE MAGAZINE EXPOSURE, BODY MASS INDEX, AND SOCIAL COMPARISON IN MEN’S BODY SATISFACTION. Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal, 37(5), 627-629.

A content analysis of men’s magazines: 1993

July 1993 Cover

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By Alicia Deily

In 1993, a content analysis was done of the images of men in magazines in male-targeted magazines. Images were looked at from Business Week, Esquire, GQ, Playboy, Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated. Only images where men were alone were analyzed. Prior to 1993, only two studies were done on this topic; women’s advertisement received much more attention.

The objective of the study was to analyze the physical characteristics of the men in the images. Body characteristics, facial hair, clothing styles, gaze, and positioning of the head and body were all considered. The sample included 1158 advertisements with GQ contributing the most. The content analysis yielded some interesting results.

Here are some noteable facts from the study:

  • A “hairy, bare-chested male was not common at all amongst the magazines studied. If a chest was exposed, it was completely hairless.
  • In all magazines (with the exception of Business Week), males in advertisements were more likely to be shown from the knees up than in any other way.
  • More than 1/3 of the male models were looking directly at the camera which suggests confidence.
  • About ¼ of the models were looking purposefully away from the viewer but had their body pointing towards the camera. This suggests aloofness and detachment.
  • Out of the three types of bodies (endomorphic- soft and round, mesomorphic- strong and hard, and ectomorphic- thin and lightly muscled), most men had a mesomorphic body type. A few men had an endomorphic body but barely any were showed a ectomorphic type of body. This shows that the least desirable male body type is a thin one.
  • Every magazine except for Playboy and Rolling Stone did portray men with receding hairlines which shows an accurate image of what real men look like.
  • The vast majority of images portrayed clean shaven men. However, Business Week and Sports Illustrated had the highest incidences of men with full beards or mustaches.
  • Men wearing sunglasses were frequently shown because this seems to enhance the aloofness of the model.

Overall, this study was revolutionary for its time. Very few studies had analyzed images of men in magazines. The findings reflect the styles of the times and the way that men are portrayed in American society. The content analysis revealed that men are objectified in advertising. Previously it was believed that only women had to deal with this issue.

The study also showed that men are portrayed slightly more realistically than women in advertising are. For example, men were actually shown with receding hairlines but would a woman with cellulite ever be shown? Most likely not. Lastly, it seems common for men to be aloof and detached which reflects society’s expectations for men to be unemotional and not show weakness.

Sourced from (APA)- Kolber, R. H., & Albanese, P. J. (1996). Man to Man: A Content Analysis of Sole-Male Images in Male-Audience Magazines. Journal Of Advertising, 25(4), 1-20.

Quest for perfect body may lead to unhealthy behaviors

“Men see these idealized, muscular men in the media and feel their own bodies don’t measure up. For some men, this can lead to unhealthy and potentially dangerous behaviors to try to reach that ideal.” -Tracy Tylka (author of study, Ohio State University)

Read more about this study here.

Sourced from (APA):

Grabmeier, J. (2006). Pressure to be more muscular may lead men to unhealthy behaviors. Informally published manuscript, Research Communications, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. Retrieved from

The Social Comparison Theory

March 16, 2012 Leave a comment

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By Alicia Deily

The social comparison theory states that humans have a drive to evaluate their opinions and abilities. When there is a lack of an objective physical way to evaluate oneself, one will turn to social comparisons. This theory was proposed by social psychologist Leon Festinger in the 1950s. Upward social comparison is when a person compares themselves to someone who they believe is better than them. Downward social comparison is when a person compares themselves to someone who they believe is worse off than them.

This theory was focused most heavily on social comparisons but it also has been used to describe people’s relationship with images presented by the mass media. Once a person has made a comparison between themselves and someone else, the existence of a discrepancy is recognized. Recognizing this will lead a person to attempting to reduce this discrepancy. For example, if a man compares himself with images of idealized muscular men, he will recognize this difference and work to reduce the difference.

During the adolescent years, humans especially look to societal and social cues as to what is considered desirable or normal. Research indicates that more men are using anabolic steroids and untested methods for muscle building and fat burning. This could also lead to an increase in eating disorders amongst men.

Sourced from (APA)- Law, C., & Labre, M. (2002). CULTURAL STANDARDS OF ATTRACTIVENESS: A
Mass Communication Quarterly, 79(3), 697-711.

Standards of Male Attractiveness

March 11, 2012 Leave a comment

By Alicia Deily

Many studies regarding the ideal female body and its effects on women’s bodies have been done. Until recently, the ideal male body has not been studied in depth. This particular study from 2002 examined images of male attractiveness in magazines from 1967 to 1997.

The magazines that were examined included GQ, Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone. The bodies featured were measured using an 8-point scale that measured body fat and levels of muscularity. The study found that over the course of the 30 year period, the ideal body fluctuated dramatically.

From the 1960s to the 1980s the level of leanness and the ideal “V-shape” found in images of men increased dramatically. This shape slightly decreased from the 1980s to the 1990s. Overall muscularity steadily increased over the 30 year period and reached its height in the 1990s.

The ideal male body that is valued in western society is a mesomorphic one, which refers to an average build. This is opposed to a thin body called ectomorphic, or a large one called endomorphic. Muscularity, leanness and a V-shape are all characteristics considered to be ideal for the male body.

During the 1980s and the 1990s half-naked images of muscular men began to dominate the mainstream western media. These images are most heavily featured in men’s magazines but can also be seen in wresters from the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and in action movies.

The images in men’s magazines are meant to play into men’s ideas about body image. This is how they are selling magazines. It seems that ideas about male beauty may become as prominent in western culture as ideas about female beauty.

Sourced From (APA)- Law, C., & Labre, M. (2002). CULTURAL STANDARDS OF ATTRACTIVENESS: A
Mass Communication Quarterly, 79(3), 697-711.


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