Media Matters to Males, Too

In this study, different media affected drive for thinness and muscularity in boys.

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
January/February Volume 26, Number 1
©2015 iaedp

Those who work in the field of eating disorders often stress the impact of media images upon females, but a recent study suggests that media affect males, too. In a study of 182 adolescent boys (average age: 15.2 years), Amy Slater and Marika Tiggemann of the University of the West of England, Bristol, and Flinders University, Sydney, Australia, found that different types of media had differing and significant effects upon the boys (Eat Behav. 2014; 15:679).

According to the authors, one limitation of existing research into the effects of media on teenage boys is that different types of media, including television and magazines, have usually been considered equivalent. However, different types of media may have very different effects on male readers. For example, an earlier researcher found that reading fashion magazines was related to decreased drive for muscularity, while reading health/fitness magazines had the opposite effect increased drive for muscularity (J Soc Clin Psychol. 2005; 24:261). In an earlier study, one of the authors (Dr. Tiggemann) found that when adolescent boys watched TV soap operas, they had increased drive for thinness and decreased muscularity; when they watched music videos, they had an increased drive for muscularity.

The boys in the current study were predominantly white ninth and tenth graders recruited from two coeducational secondary schools in Adelaide, South Australia. The boys had an average body mass index of 21.04 kg/m2. The boys were asked about specific television programs and magazines. Disordered eating attitudes were measured with two scales, the Drive for Thinness subscale of the Eating Disorders Inventory and the Drive for Muscularity scale (Eat Behav 2003; 4:107). The Drive for Muscularity Scale is a 15-item self-report measure designed to assess dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors related to muscularity.

Reading different magazines and TV programs produced different results

Drs. Slater and Tiggemann’s study was one of the first to evaluate the effects of reality programs and watching these programs. Watching such programs was correlated with drive for thinness among the boys. The major finding was that reading men’s magazines emerged as a unique predictor of both drive for thinness and muscularity.

The authors note that their study had some limitations, such as the fact that the boys were drawn from only two schools, where the student population was relatively homogeneous. The ways in which drive for thinness and muscularity were measured were also relatively simple. In addition, it is plausible that boys who are already concerned about their bodies are more likely to seek out particular types of media (rather than media use leading to body dissatisfaction)

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