1.     
Background
and Rationale

Recent research has suggested that
body image disturbance in adolescent males is becoming increasingly prevalent. Murray
et. al (2012) indicated that males now experience similar levels of body
dissatisfaction to females. The body image concerns of males have not been
addressed in the scientific literature nearly as extensively as the body image
concerns of females (Pope, Phillips, & Olivardia, 2000). Frederick et al.
(2007) reported that up to 95% of American males show significant signs of
being dissatisfied with their appearance, with most men and boys as young as
six reporting a strong preference for a more muscular build.

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Current research findings suggest a
considerable percentage of children and adolescents to be more vulnerable to
feeling pressure from the media, family and peers, than adults. Research
literature on the sociocultural theories of the development of body
dissatisfaction not only suggests that the pressure to be muscular derives
predominantly from sources such as the media, parents, and peers (Bell &
Dittmar, 2011); but also from the harmful influence due to the pervasive
messages that constantly publish the muscular ideal as the sociocultural
standard of beauty (Thompson & Heinberg, 1999). A more recent study found
that men who viewed ideal male images in TV advertisements reported higher
levels of muscle dissatisfaction and depression following image exposure than
men who viewed nonappearance related advertisements (Agliata &
Tantleff-Dunn, as cited in Hobza, Walker, Yakushko, & Peugh, 2007).

Thompson and Heinberg (1999) also reveal
that males are now exposed to societal and interpersonal pressures to achieve
an unrealistic muscular ideal, in a manner similar to the unrealistic thin
ideal that females have faced for the past 30 years. Pope, Phillips, and
Olivardia (2000) have seen a considerable rise, over the last 20 years, in males
involved in compulsive exercising, as well as the increasing rate of males
using anabolic androgenic steroids, nutritional supplements, and cosmetic
treatments.  

Adolescent males who have negative
attitudes about their bodies and their appearance report a wide array of
psychological and health issues (Frederick et al., 2007). They display higher
levels of depression, eating pathology, and use of performance-enhancing
substances, as well as lower self-esteem. Such individuals are more likely to
engage in risky behaviours, such as excessive exercise, overeating, or taking
anabolic androgenic steroids (Pope et al., 1997). Anabolic androgenic steroids,
when used regularly and in large proportions, can lead to serious health
issues, such as an increase in heart size leading to a high risk of heart
attack, liver disease, liver tumours and cysts, kidney disease, severe acne and
oily skin, and hair loss (Amsterdam, Opperhuizen, & Hartgens, 2010).

Childhood teasing and bullying
experiences relating to the lack of musculature or weight have been identified
as risk factors for muscle dysmorphia in males (Olivardia, 2001). Herlitz et
al., (2010) pointed out that the main reasons for steroid use among adolescent
boys were to increase their popularity among peers and to increase their
personal appeal.

Muscle dysmorphia describes a condition
characterised by a misconstrued body image in which individuals interpret their
body size as both small and weak, even though they may look normal or highly
muscular (Foster, Shorter, & Griffiths, 2015). Muscle dysmorphia is now
included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth
edition, text revision, as a variant of body dysmorphic disorder (American
Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Ethnicity and culture have contributed
significantly as contributing variables in psychological phenomenon. Culture is
predominantly applicable in the study of body image and eating disorders as
both have been shown to relate to cultural values (Heinberg, Thompson, &
Stormer, 1995). A number of reviews on eating and body image disturbances have
shown that studies involving different cultural groups have mostly been
conducted within westernised countries. Soh, Touyz, and Surgenor (2006) have
suggested that many cultural studies within westernised countries show
variation among cultural views of body image and eating patterns, and that
these variations should be explored by doing research in other countries
outside of the United States. Although it is suggested that countries outside
of the United States tend to have higher body image rates and lower eating
disorder prevalence (Soh, Touyz, & Surgenor, 2006), this has not been
consistently reported. A number of studies have found little to no
differentiation among varying cultures and therefore further research is
warranted.

Research studies have shown that risk
factors for eating disorder behaviours and cognitions vary according to gender
and culture. Cross-cultural research in body shape perception and body image
satisfaction / dissatisfaction has shown that there are variances between western
and non-western societies which suggest the presence of socio-cultural factors
in this area. The identification and measurement of cultural variables
affecting body image is therefore central in developing preventative strategies
and further progress in this area.

 

 

 

2.     
Research
Aims and Objectives

The
aim of this study is to investigate whether differences exist in body image
dissatisfaction, eating disturbance and muscularity attitudes amongst South
African adolescent males representing South Africa’s ethnically and culturally
diverse population, as well as the influence of media exposure.

It will be advantageous for this
research to be conducted on a large geographical scale in order to expand the
diversity of the study, gain a larger number of participants, and improve
generalisation. Data collection from semi-rural and rural areas within South
Africa that have not been influenced by westernisation will be beneficial in
the comparison of data within areas in the cities where westernisation
influence is rife. The assessment of participants in a non-westernised society
would allow more detailed and elaborated understanding of cross-cultural
variations in eating habits and body image.  

 

3.     
Theoretical
Perspectives

Sociocultural theories of body
image propose that societies have body shape ideals which are communicated
(through media, family and peers) to individuals, who internalise them
resulting in body (dis)satisfaction (Tiggemann, 2011). The Tripartite Influence
Model (van den Berg et al., 2002) which proposes that media, peers and family
are all key sociocultural channels for the transmission of body ideals is one
of the best known sociocultural models. This model assumes that body ideals
tend to emphasise the desirability of slenderness and muscularity for women and
men respectively, meaning that the reference point for judging attractiveness
becomes unrealistic, leading to perceptions of relative unattractiveness and
body dissatisfaction (Grogan, 2017).

Thomas Cash’s (2002)
cognitive-behavioural model of body image development and experiences details
the importance of cultural socialisation, interpersonal characteristics,
personal characteristics and personality attributes in body image evaluation
and assessment.

 

Connell’s (1995) theory of
masculinity originates from both the fields of social psychology and sociology
which have contributed to the literature about the male sex role in recognising
the social nature of masculinity and the possibilities of change in men’s
conduct. Hegemonic masculinity in western culture is largely reflective of an
authoritative, hyper-masculine, and heterosexual image of a man which
simultaneously rejects traits and behaviours perceived as feminine (Connell,
1995). Social norms and social bans hold men accountable to this normative idea
of masculinity. Martin and Govender (2011) found, in their study of traditional
masculine ideology, that masculinity and the pursuit of muscularity appeared to
have a highly significant association with conformity to hegemonic norms.

 

 

4.     
Methodology

This study will use
quantitative and qualitative methodology.

a)      Focus
groups will be employed to explore beliefs and attitudes about body image. These
groups will also explore attitudes and beliefs to media exposure. Information
from the focus group discussions will be used to develop a semi-structured
questionnaire for individual interviews. This will validate the data from the
focus groups and will also assess causes and risk factors associated with body
dissatisfaction.

b)      The
following questionnaires will also be administered:

–         
Demographic Questionnaire

–         
The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES)

–         
Muscle Appearance Satisfaction Scale
(MASS)

–         
Eating Attitude Test 26 (EAT26)

–         
Fallen and Rozin Body Image
Questionnaire

 

 

 

5.     
Ethical
Considerations

Parental
or guardian consent will be required for all participants. Permission from
principals at the various educational facilities will be required prior to
commencement of the project. Ethical clearance will need to be provided prior
to commencement of the project. No risks will be envisaged for the participants
of this research study. The rights and welfare of the human research
participants, their identities and their interests will be protected.
Confidentiality and anonymity of all the information provided will be
guaranteed. Participation will be voluntary, and no person will be advantaged
or disadvantaged in any way for choosing to participate or not to participate
in this study. All ethical considerations will be communicated to each of the
participants.

 

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