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Dev Psychol. 2015 Sep;51(9):1216-25. doi: 10.1037/dev0000027. Epub 2015 Jun 22.

Patterns of body image concerns and disordered weight- and shape-related behaviors in heterosexual and sexual minority adolescent males.

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Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital.
Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Division of Health Promotion and Behavioral Science, Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University.
Department of Data Science, Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth University.


This study investigates body image concerns and disordered weight- and shape-related behaviors across adolescence and young adulthood in males and how patterns vary by sexual orientation. Participants were 5,388 males from the U.S. national Growing Up Today Study. In 2001, 2003, and 2005 (spanning ages 15-20 years), participants reported sexual orientation, past-year desire for toned/defined muscles and concerns with weight and shape, and past-year binge eating, restrictive dieting, purging (vomiting or laxative use), and use of products to increase muscularity (e.g., creatine, steroids). Latent class analyses identified 2 patterns at ages 15-16 years and 3 patterns at 17-18 and 19-20 years: healthy (all ages; low body image concerns and weight- and shape-related behaviors; 54-74% of observations), muscle-concerned (ages 17-18 and 19-20; relatively high muscularity concern and product use; 18-21% of observations), and lean-concerned (all ages; relatively high weight and shape concern, dieting, and binge eating; 19-28% of observations). Latent transition analyses revealed that sexual minority males (i.e., mostly heterosexual, gay, and bisexual) were more likely than completely heterosexual males to be lean-concerned at ages 17-18 and 19-20 years and to transition to the lean-concerned class from the healthy class. There were no sexual orientation differences in odds of being muscle-concerned. Both heterosexual and sexual minority males are at risk for presenting body image concerns and weight- and shape-related behaviors that may have deleterious health consequences. Results suggest the need for screening for concerns and behaviors related to leanness and muscularity in early adolescence among all males, regardless of sexual orientation.

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