Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Give or Take a Few? Comparing Measured and Self-Reported Height and Weight as Correlates of Social Physique Anxiety

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Give or Take a Few? Comparing Measured and Self-Reported Height and Weight as Correlates of Social Physique Anxiety

Article excerpt

Statistically controlling for physical size is common practice, especially in self-perception studies uncovering the etiology of maladaptive behaviors, such as eating disorders. For example, social physique anxiety (SPA)--apprehension about social evaluations while presenting oneself in front of others (Leary, 1992)--is a prominent correlate of eating disorder indicators (Hausenblas & Mack, 1999; Monsma & Malina, 2004), body image (Ackard, Croll, & Kearny-Cook, 2002; Markey & Markey, 2005), and self-esteem (Caldwell, Brownell, & Wilfley 1997; Forbes, Doroszewicz, Card, & Adams-Curtis, 2004). Physical size may potentially mask relationships among the psychological variables between SPA relationships and such constructs.

Psychological analyses frequently control for height, weight, or body mass index (BMI) by examining partial correlations or using physical variables as covariates in mean comparison tests with SPA as well as other psychological disorder symptoms. Among female participants in aesthetic sports, Monsma, Pfeiffer, and Malina (2008) found that physical size characteristics, such as weight, percentage of body fat, and BMI, were the strongest correlates of SPA. Other studies of adolescent and young adult women supported the association of BMI and SPA, with correlations of .14 (Haase & Prapavessis, 1998) and .11 (Russell & Cox, 2003), respectively. Self-reported BMI accounted for 21% of the variance in predicting body satisfaction in 7,200 young adult female dieters (Caldwell et al., 1997), 7.8% of the variance in SPA in 373 college women (Sabiston, Crocker, & Munroe-Chandler, 2005), and measured BMI explained 5% of the variance in eating disorder symptoms among 114 adolescent and young adult figure skaters (Monsma & Malina, 2004).

Physical size is particularly important to consider among adolescents because of the variability associated with growth and maturation. In general, participants with higher BMI tend to report higher scores in SPA, decreased body satisfaction, and increased eating disorder symptoms. Given that social desirability to have a lean figure is prevalent in American society, individuals with symptoms of eating disorders, low to moderate increases in SPA, and body dissatisfaction may be more likely to misreport their height and weight (Klesges et al., 2004).

Both biological and contextual factors are possible reasons for over- or underreporting height and weight among adolescents. Plausible biological explanations include the timing and tempo of growth (Fortenberry, 1992) and time since menarche in girls (Abraham, Luscombe, Boyd, & Oleson, 2004), while contextual factors include those such as the amount of time spent exercising (Abraham et al., 2004) and pressures associated with sports context. Aesthetic activities such as ballet, gymnastics, cheerleading, and figure skating frequently hold weighins, involve high-energy expenditure, and, in some cases, recommendations to diet or lose weight.

Aligned with timing and tempo variations of biological events, such as breast development and menarche (Brooks-Gunn, 1988), the ages of [less than or equal to] 12.9, 13.0-15.9, 16.0-18.9, [greater than or equal to] 19 years should be considered because of the associated gains in weight and height. The average age at menarche is 12.8 [+ or -] 1.0 years in the North American population and slightly later (13.5-16.8 years) among aesthetic activity participants (Malina, Bouchard, & BarOr, 2004). Peak height followed by peak weight velocities typically occur approximately one year prior to menarche. Growing an average of about 8 cm together with changes in body composition result in average weight gains of about 5 kg (Malina, Bouchard, & Bar-Or, 2004). Young participants might not notice the magnitude of these changes. Fortenberry (1992) conducted a study of adolescents and found results similar to adults by generally underreporting weight and overreporting height, with the exception of underweight males who overreported both measurements. …

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