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“The Very Heavy Burden”: A mixed methods investigation of media and masculinity effects on male body dissatisfaction

Buonaiuto, Eliana (2017) “The Very Heavy Burden”: A mixed methods investigation of media and masculinity effects on male body dissatisfaction. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Body dissatisfaction has been established as a major contributor to eating disorders, anxiety, and depression in females. Contemporary research has revealed a growing proportion of males who experience body dissatifaction. Increases in objectifying lean, muscular men in the media has been seen as a instigator of body dissatisfaction in males. Furthermore, few studies have explored the possibility of masculinity influencing the development of male body dissatisfaction (MBD). This is important to consider as masculinity could be another major contributor to MBD. This study investigated the influence of media depictions of male bodies on body dissatisfaction and self-esteem, while controlling for adherence to media ideals and traditional masculine norms. Sixty-three Australian males aged between 18-35 years were randomly presented with a series of images of either: lean, muscular men, slim men, and landscapes (control). The results revealed that exposure to images of lean, muscular bodies increased MBD compared to the other conditions. Exposure to average, slender males decreased participants’ self-esteem. The difference in MBD remained significant after accounting for adherence to masculine norms, but was no longer significant after controlling for adherence to media ideals. Qualitative results supported influence of media images on body dissatisfaction, and revealed a challenge of traditional masculine norms. Future research should consider a possible shift of masculinity norms, and emphasise the importance teaching males how to critically engage with media.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Supervisor(s): Monson, Olivia
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