According to a new study led by Michael B. McFarland of the Department of Psychology at the University of North Texas, men primarily gauge their body satisfaction on three specific body parts, and they are not what one might think they are. Men who have body image issues struggle with a low sense of well-being and often develop mental health problems such as depression, muscle dysmorphia, and eating issues. Men are influenced throughout their lives by images of an ideal male body, which is depicted as lean and muscular. Media, peers, and even family members may pressure young boys in ways that are unproductive and unhealthy, causing these adolescents to feel dissatisfied with themselves and eventually leading them to engage in negative behaviors, including steroid abuse, extreme weight lifting, or restrictive dieting. The Body Parts Satisfaction Scale for Men (BPSS-M) is a measure used to gauge a man’s body satisfaction, based on 25 factors. However, in this most recent study, McFarland and his colleagues sought to isolate the factors that were most significant to a man’s perception of ideal body image.
In two separate evaluations involving 188 male college students, McFarland examined the responses to the BPSS-M and found that three specific factors were overwhelmingly selected as the most important to body satisfaction. In particular, McFarland realized that men focus on their face, legs, and upper body most often. In contrast to the belief that men visualize their overall body image with respect to muscularity and leanness, this study demonstrated that dissatisfaction with these three areas influenced negative psychological outcomes the most significantly. Behaviors such as extreme dieting and binging and purging were directly related to dissatisfaction with the face and upper body. Dissatisfaction with these three areas also predicted levels of depression and guilt in the men. Conversely, satisfaction with the face was one of the strongest indicators of self-esteem, showing that men are not only concerned with leanness and muscle mass, but their complexion and facial appearance as well. McFarland believes these new findings could help clinicians understand their client’s body dissatisfaction more intimately, allowing for better treatment of negative mental health outcomes and behaviors. He added, “Further, it provides a way to determine how satisfied men are with not just their body but also their face, which appears to be related to their general feelings of esteem.”
McFarland, M. B., Petrie, T. A. (2012, January 23). Male Body Satisfaction: Factorial and Construct Validity of the Body Parts Satisfaction Scale for Men. Journal of Counseling Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026777
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