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Int J Eat Disord. 1999 Jul;26(1):65-72.

Evolving ideals of male body image as seen through action toys.

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  • 1Biological Psychiatry Laboratory, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts 02178, USA.



We hypothesized that the physiques of male action toys--small plastic figures used by children in play--would provide some index of evolving American cultural ideals of male body image.


We obtained examples of the most popular American action toys manufactured over the last 30 years. We then measured the waist, chest, and bicep circumference of each figure and scaled these measurements using classical allometry to the height of an actual man (1.78 m).


We found that the figures have grown much more muscular over time, with many contemporary figures far exceeding the muscularity of even the largest human bodybuilders.


Our observations appear to represent a "male analog" of earlier studies examining female dolls, such as Barbie. Together, these studies of children's toys suggest that cultural expectations may contribute to body image disorders in both sexes.

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