Sex Roles

, Volume 27, Issue 7–8, pp 413–437 | Cite as

Gender differences in eating attitudes, body concept, and self-esteem among models

  • Jennifer B. Brenner
  • Joseph G. Cunningham


Eating attitudes, body concept, and self-esteem were investigated among professional fashion models and controls. Samples were predominantly Caucasian and from upper and middle class backgrounds. Women displayed significantly more eating-disordered behavior and lower levels of body satisfaction and self-esteem than men. Whereas the self-esteem of female models was higher than that of female controls the self-esteem of male models and male controls did not differ. Female undergraduates displayed the lowest self-esteem among the groups. Finally, despite findings that the majority of female models were underweight while the majority of female undergraduates were within recommended weight ranges, both groups displayed similar levels of eating-disordered behavior. Results suggest that the slender figures of professional fashion models are best viewed as lying at one extreme of the normal distribution of body types rather than as the product of purposeful dieting behavior to be attained by average women.


Gender Difference Social Psychology Middle Class Male Control Diet Behavior 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adams, G. R. (1977a). Physical attractiveness, personality, and social reactions to peer pressure. The Journal of Psychology, 96, 287–296.Google Scholar
  2. Adams, G. R. (1977b). Physical attractiveness research: Toward a developmental social psychology of beauty. Human Development, 20, 217–239.Google Scholar
  3. Bar-Tal, D., & Saxe, L. (1976). Perceptions of similarly and dissimilarly physically attractive couples and individuals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33, 772–781.Google Scholar
  4. Berscheid, E. E., & Walster, E. (1974). Physical attractiveness. In L. Berkowitz, (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 7), New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  5. Berscheid, E., Walster, E., & Bohrnstedt, G. (1973, November). The happy American body: A survey report. Psychology Today, November, pp. 119–131.Google Scholar
  6. Birtchnell, S. A., Dolan, B. M., & Lacey, J. H. (1987). Body image distortion in non-eating disordered women. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 31, 513–520.Google Scholar
  7. Boskind-Lodahl, M. (1976). Cinderella's step-sisters: Feminist perspective on anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Signs: Journal of Women, Culture, and Society, 2, 35–41.Google Scholar
  8. Brenner, J. B. (1991). Cultural expectations of thinness in women: Notes from the 90s. Manuscript in preparation.Google Scholar
  9. Brodsky, C. M. (1954). A study of norms for body form-behavior relationships. Washington: Catholic University of America Press.Google Scholar
  10. Bruch, H. (1973). Eating disorders. Basic Books: New York.Google Scholar
  11. Bruch, H. (1978). The golden cage. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Bruch, H. (1980). Thin fat people. In J. R. Kaplan (Ed.), A woman's conflict: The special relationship between women and food. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  13. Button, E. J., & Whitehouse, A. (1981). Subclinical anorexia nervosa. Psychological Medicine, 11, 509–516.Google Scholar
  14. Cash, T. F. (1982). Physical attractiveness: An annotated bibliography of theory and research in the behavioral sciences. JSAS Catalog of Selected Documents in Psychology, 11 (Ms. No. 2370).Google Scholar
  15. Cash, T. F., Cash, D. W., & Butters, J. W. (1983). “Mirror, mirror, on the wall ...;?” Contrast effects and self-evaluation of physical attractiveness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 9, 351–358.Google Scholar
  16. Cash, T. F., Winstead, B. A., & Janda, L. H. (1986, April). The great American shape-up. Psychology Today, pp. 30–37.Google Scholar
  17. Chernin, K. (1981). The obsession: Reflections on the tyranny of slenderness. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  18. Clifford, E. (1971). Body satisfaction in adolescence. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 9, 119–125.Google Scholar
  19. Davis, L. L. (1985). Perceived somatotype, body-cathexis, and attitudes toward clothing among college females. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 61, 1199–1205.Google Scholar
  20. Frisch, R., & MacArthur, J. (1974). Menstrual cycles: Fatness as a determinant of minimum weight for height necessary for their maintenance or onset. Science, 185, 949–951.Google Scholar
  21. Garner, D. M., & Garfinkel, P. E. (1979). The Eating Attitudes Test: An index of the symptoms of anorexia nervosa. Psychological Medicine, 9, 273–279.Google Scholar
  22. Garner, D. M., & Garfinkel, P. E. (1980). Sociocultural factors in anorexia nervosa. Psychological Medicine, 10, 647–656.Google Scholar
  23. Garner, D. M., & Garfinkel, P. E. (1985). Handbook of psychotherapy for anorexia nervosa and bulimia. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  24. Garner, D. M., Garfinkel, P. E., Schwartz, D., & Thompson, M. (1980). Cultural expectations of thinness in women. Psychological Reports, 47, 483–491.Google Scholar
  25. Garner, D. M., Olmsted, M. P., Bohr, Y., & Garfinkel, P. E. (1982). The Eating Attitudes Test: Psychometric features and clinical correlates. Psychological Medicine, 12, 871–878.Google Scholar
  26. Gordon, L. (1984, February). Feeling fat in a thin society. Glamour, pp. 198–252.Google Scholar
  27. Gray, S. H. (1977). Social aspects of body image: Perception of normalcy of weight and affect of college undergraduates. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 45, 1035–1040.Google Scholar
  28. Hamachek, D. E. (1978). Encounters with the self. (2nd ed.). New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.Google Scholar
  29. Helson, H. (1964). Adaptation-level theory: An experimental and systematic approach to behavior. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  30. Hollingshead, A. B. (1975). Four factor index of social status. New York: CT: Yale University.Google Scholar
  31. Kenrick, D. T., & Gutierres, S. E. (1980). Contrast effects and judgments of physical attractiveness: When beauty becomes a social problem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38, 131–140.Google Scholar
  32. Kernaleguen, A., & Conrad, G. (1981). Analysis of five measures of self-concept. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 51, 855–861.Google Scholar
  33. Keys, A., Brozek, J., Henschel, A., Mickelson, O., & Taylor, H. T. (1950). The biology of human starvation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  34. Klesges, R. C. (1983). An analysis of body image distortion in a nonpatient population. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 2, 35–41.Google Scholar
  35. Koff, E., & Rierdan, J. (1991). Perceptions of weight and attitudes toward eating in early adolescent girls. Journal of Adolescent Health, 12, 307–312.Google Scholar
  36. Lerner, R. M., Karabenick, S. A., & Stuart, J. L. (1973). Relations among physical attractiveness, body attitudes, and male and female college students. Journal of Psychology, 85, 119–129.Google Scholar
  37. Mahoney, E. R., & Finch, M. D. (1976). Body-cathexis and self-esteem: A reanalysis of the differential contribution of specific body aspects. Journal of Social Psychology, 99, 251–258.Google Scholar
  38. McCauley, M. L., Mintz, L., & Glenn, A. A. (1988). Body-image, self-esteem, and depression-proneness: Closing the gender gap. Sex Roles, 18, 381–391.Google Scholar
  39. Miller, T. M., Coffman, J. G., & Linke, R. A. (1980). Survey of body-image, weight and diet of college students. Journal of the American Dietic Association, 77, 561–566.Google Scholar
  40. Mintz, L. B., & Betz, N. B. (1986). Sex differences in the nature, realism, and correlates of body image. Sex Roles, 15, 185–195.Google Scholar
  41. Nevid, J. S. (1984). Sex differences in factors of romantic attraction. Sex Roles, 2, 401–411.Google Scholar
  42. O'Neill, M. (1991, January 2). The 90's woman: How fat is fat. New York Times, C1, C6.Google Scholar
  43. Pumariega, A. J. (1986). Acculturation and eating attitudes in adolescent girls: a comparative and correlational study. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 25, 276–279.Google Scholar
  44. Raciti, M. C., & Norcross, J. C. (1987). The EAT and EDI: Screening, interrelationships, and psychometrics. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 6, 579–586.Google Scholar
  45. Robinett-Weiss, N. G. (1984). Fogarty table corrected: Recommended weight in relation to height. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 84, 1502.Google Scholar
  46. Robinson, J. P., & Shaver, P. R. (1973). Measures of social psychological attitudes., Ann Arbor MI: Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research.Google Scholar
  47. Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Secord, P. F., & Jourard, S. M. (1953). The appraisal of body-cathexis: Body-cathexis and the self. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 7, 343–347.Google Scholar
  49. Schwab, J. J., & Harmeling, J. D. (1968). Body image and medical illness. Psychosomatic Medicine, 30, 51–60.Google Scholar
  50. Society of Actuaries and Association of Life Insurance Medical Directors of America (1979). Build and blood pressure study. Chicago, Il: Author.Google Scholar
  51. Staffieri, J. R. (1967). A study of social stereotype of body image in children. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 7, 101–104.Google Scholar
  52. Story, M. D. (1979). Factors associated with more positive body self-concepts in preschool children. Journal of Social Psychology, 108, 49–56.Google Scholar
  53. Thompson, J. K. (1986, April). Larger than life. Psychology Today, 20, pp. 39, 42, 44.Google Scholar
  54. Thompson, M. G., & Schwartz, D. M. (1982). Life adjustment of women with anorexia nervosa and anorexic-like behavior. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 1, 47–60.Google Scholar
  55. Toro, J., Cervera, M., & Perez, P. (1988). Body shape, publicity and anorexia nervosa. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 23, 132–136.Google Scholar
  56. Tucker, L. A. (1981). Internal structure, factor satisfaction, and reliability of the Body Cathexis Scale. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 53, 891–896.Google Scholar
  57. Tucker, L. A. (1982a). Effect of a weight training program on the self-concepts of college males. Perceptual Motor Skills, 54, 1055–1061.Google Scholar
  58. Tucker, L. A. (1982b). Relationship between perceived somatotype and body cathexis of college males. Psychological Reports, 50, 983–989.Google Scholar
  59. Tucker, L. A. (1983). The structure and dimensional satisfaction of the body cathexis construct of males: A factor analytic investigation. Journal of Movement Studies, 9, 189–194.Google Scholar
  60. Tucker, L. A. (1984). Physical attractiveness, somatotype, and the male personality: A dynamic interactional perspective. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 40, 1226–1234.Google Scholar
  61. Udry, J. R., & Eckland, B. K. (1984). Benefits of being attractive: Differential payoffs for men and women. Psychological Reports, 54, 47–56.Google Scholar
  62. Vandereycken, W., & Meerman, R. (1984). Anorexia nervosa: Is prevention possible International Journal of Psychiatric Medicine, 14, 191–205.Google Scholar
  63. Vincent, L. M. (1979). Competing with the Sylph: Dancers and the pursuit of the ideal body form. New York: Andrews McMeel.Google Scholar
  64. Wells, W. D., & Siegal, B. (1961). Stereotyped somatotypes. Psychological Reports, 8, 77–78.Google Scholar
  65. White, W. F., & Wash, J. A. (1965). Prediction of successful college academic performance from measures of body-cathexis, self-cathexis and anxiety. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 20, 431–432.Google Scholar
  66. Wooley, O. W. (1985a) Fashion and eating disorders. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  67. Wooley, O. W. (1985b). The crisis in body image: Data from the Glamour survey. Paper presented at the American Psychological Annual Convention, 1985, Los Angeles, CA.Google Scholar
  68. Wooley, O. W. (1989). The Color-A-Person Body Dissatisfaction Test: Stability, internal consistency, and validity. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  69. Worsley, A. (1981a). In the eye of the beholder: Social and personal characteristics of teenagers and their impressions of themselves and fat and slim people. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 54, 231–242.Google Scholar
  70. Worsley, A. (1981b). Teenager's perception of fat and slim people. International Journal of Obesity, 5, 15–24.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer B. Brenner
    • 1
  • Joseph G. Cunningham
    • 1
  1. 1.Brandeis UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations