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NMSU professor takes a closer look at reasons men have negative body image

While women have long been obsessed with attaining society's idea of a perfect body, Jonathan Schwartz, department head and professor in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology at New Mexico State University's College of Education, has found that men also share worries about their body image.



Jonathan Schwartz, department head and professor in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology at New Mexico State University's College of Education, has conducted research that examines the reasons men may have a negative view on their body image. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips.)

Schwartz's research suggests that traditional masculine ideology and early relational experiences may affect male body image. Schwartz and his research team examined gender role conflict and the balance of connection and separation from family on body image and self-objectification among 202 college undergraduate men.

"There has always been this unattainable body image of Barbie with females. Now there's this body type of a G.I. Joe that's impossible for males to achieve without the use of steroids or dietary supplements," Schwartz said.

Conducting an online survey, self-objectification questionnaire and having participants assess body areas with a scale he co-created, the Male Body Attitude Scale, Schwartz and his colleagues were able to measure the predictors of satisfaction and dissatisfaction in body image. The scale was designed to measure unique areas of body dissatisfaction in men, and has three subscales: muscularity, body fat and height.

Schwartz found that family factors, differentiation of self and gender roles were predictors of self-objectification. Schwartz also said that those individuals with personalities that were not very flexible also had issues with body image.

"Men who have rigid personalities feel they have to be a certain way to meet the expectations of their peers or their society," Schwartz said. "Those who have a flexible, clear sense of self and a lack of emotional enmeshment are related to low body image concerns and low self-objectification among men."

Wanting to further this study at NMSU, Schwartz hopes to look at how factors like ethnicity and culture impact the view of one's body image. His main focus, however, will be how these same pressures and ideas lead men to commit dating and domestic violence acts.

"Men who have a rigid and restrictive idea of what it means to be a man often take an extremely dominant role in relationships, which may lead to dating violence," Schwartz said.

In July 2010, Schwartz was named into the Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity's official journal's Top 11 Most Productive Psychology of Men and Masculinity Scholars being ranked at number four on the list. He also was named the researcher of the year in 2008 for the Division of Men and Masculinity in the American Psychological Association.