Background: This study addresses limitations of previous research by examining the prevalence of body image dissatisfaction within two developmental periods: childhood and adolescence.
Methods: A sample of 448 boys and 508 girls completed self-report measures of global body image dissatisfaction. Weight and height of all participants were also determined.
Results: Our results indicated that body image dissatisfaction differs significantly depending upon sex and body mass. Importantly, the results revealed a multi-modal distribution in the data, particularly for boys. That is, for females there was a significant increase in body dissatisfaction across bodyweight, reflecting a predominant desire to be thinner. In contrast, for boys, there was a differential pattern; with those who were overweight wanting to be thinner, but those who were underweight wanting to be larger. Moreover, whilst for both sexes, body image dissatisfaction was found to be evident in childhood as well as adolescence, during the former developmental period, it appeared to be less pronounced.
Conclusions: These findings indicate that, contrary to previous propositions, body image dissatisfaction is of concern for males as well as females, although the distribution of such is strikingly different. The outcomes suggest that it is time to reframe our conceptualisation of this construct. Specifically, the identified non-linear distribution of means indicates that inferential analysis of body image dissatisfaction data needs to be conducted independently for each sex, as well as each body mass grouping.