In the transition from early to mid-adolescence, gender differences in pubertal development become significant. Body dissatisfaction is often associated with body mass, low self-esteem and abnormal eating habits. The majority of studies investigating body dissatisfaction and its associations have been conducted on female populations. However, some evidence suggests that males also suffer from these problems and that gender differences might already be observed in adolescence.
To examine body dissatisfaction and its relationship with body mass, as well as self-esteem and eating habits, in girls and boys in transition from early to mid-adolescence.
School nurses recorded the heights and weights of 659 girls and 711 boys with a mean age of 14.5 years. The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and the Body Dissatisfaction subscale of the Eating Disorder Inventory were used as self-appraisal scales. Eating data were self-reported.
The girls were less satisfied with their bodies than boys were with theirs (mean score (SD): 30.6 (SD 12.2) vs. 18.9 (SD 9.5); p<0.001). The girls expressed most satisfaction with their bodies when they were underweight, more dissatisfaction when they were of normal weight and most dissatisfaction when they had excess body weight. The boys also expressed most satisfaction when they were underweight and most dissatisfaction when they had excess body weight. The boys reported higher levels of self-esteem than did the girls (mean (SD): 31.3 (4.8) vs. 28.0 (5.9); p<0.001). The adolescents self-reporting abnormal eating habits were less satisfied with their bodies than those describing normal eating habits (mean (SD): 33.0 (12.9) vs. 21.2 (10.2); p<0.001).
Body mass, self-esteem and eating habits revealed a significant relationship with body dissatisfaction in the transitional phase from early to mid-adolescence in girls and boys, but significant gender differences were also found.