Embodied image: Gender differences in functional and aesthetic body image
among Australian adolescents
Bree D. Abbott*, Bonnie L. Barber
Murdoch University, School of Psychology, South Street, Murdoch 6150, Western Australia, Australia
Body image has become a major concern in the lives of today’s
adolescents, with one in three Australian adolescents reporting
body image as one of their greatest concerns, and females
expressing greater concern than males (Mission Australia, 2008).
Adolescence is a time of physical change with adolescent bodies
changing from child to adult over a relatively short period of
time. These changes increase the focus on and attention paid to
the body and also the evaluations made towards it by both the
self and others. The majority of body image research has focused
on the perceptions individuals hold towards the appearance of
their bodies. However, the current research argues that the body
is not only valued and invested in purely as an aesthetic object; it
is also valued and invested in as a functional or instrumental tool.
Therefore, when investigating the construct of body image, it
may be fruitful to consider both aesthetic and functional
The tripartite model of body image
Body image is a multidimensional construct, consisting of
Cash, & Mikulka, 1990; Cash, Melnyk, & Hrabosky, 2004; Muth &
Cash, 1997). That is, body image encompasses not only the
affective evaluations people make towards their bodies in
determining their body satisfaction, but also the value individuals
place on different dimensions of their bodies, and the behavioral-
investment made to maintain these dimensions. Values are defined
as the degree of importance an individual places on a particular
body dimension. Behavioral-investment refers to behaviors aimed
at improving or maintaining a particular body dimension. Body
satisfaction refers to the affective evaluations made about
particular body dimensions.
When investigating the construct of body image, measuring the
affective, cognitive and behavioral components separately has the
potential to allow researchers insight into the complexity of body
image. Measuring the value and behavioral-investment indivi-
duals place on their bodies has previously been accomplished
using a combined cognitive–behavioral component (Brown et al.,
1990). Separating values and investment into distinct components
may illuminate our understanding of body satisfaction by taking
into account the relative contribution of each component to
individuals’ evaluations of their bodies. For example, Rudiger,
Cash, Roehrig, and Thompson (2007) found that women who
reported appearance as a strong determinant of their self-worth
were less likely to report a favorable body image. However, in the
same sample of women, investment in the body’s physical
attractiveness was found to be unrelated to body image. Therefore,
highly valuing the body for its aesthetic qualities may be more
influential to body satisfaction than investing in, or maintaining,
Body Image 7 (2010) 22–31
A R T I C L EI N F O
Received 23 October 2008
Received in revised form 15 October 2009
Accepted 16 October 2009
Body mass index
A B S T R A C T
Perceptions of the body are not restricted to the way the body ‘‘looks’’; they may also extend to the way
the body ‘‘functions’’. This research explores body image among male and female adolescents using the
Embodied Image Scale (EIS), which incorporates body function into body image. Adolescents (N = 1526,
male = 673, female = 853) aged 12–17 (M = 13.83, SD = 1.02), from 26 Western Australian high schools
were surveyed. Information was gathered on pubertal timing, body mass index (BMI) and body image.
Participants reported significantly higher value of, behavioral-investment in, and satisfaction with the
functional dimension of the body compared to the aesthetic dimension. After controlling for age,
pubertal timing, and BMI, females reported significantly higher aesthetic values and aesthetic
behavioral-investment, and lower aesthetic satisfaction, functional values, functional behavioral-
investment and functional satisfaction than male participants. Grade, pubertal timing and BMI category
differences were also explored.
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E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (B.D. Abbott).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
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Gender differences in function and form
messages about their bodies. The ideal male body is valued for its
functional or instrumental qualities, whereas the female body is
sexuallyobjectifiedandis valued morefor itsaestheticappealthan
for its functional qualities (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). As a
result, males and females may evaluate their bodies based upon
their satisfaction with different body dimensions (aesthetic vs.
functional). Males’ body dissatisfaction tends to be based upon
their negative evaluations of their bodies’ muscle or bulk (Cohane
& Pope, 2001), whereas females display more dissatisfaction
towards their bodies’ appearance or weight (McCabe, Ricciardelli,
& Ridge, 2006). Body image, therefore, refers to more than just the
aesthetic aspects of the body, or the way the body ‘‘looks’’; it also
refers to the functional aspects of the body, or what the body can
‘‘do’’. That is, perceptions of one’s own body can be influenced by
how well one’s body functions as an instrumental tool, including
the physical ability and capabilities of the body.
Franzoi (1995) reported that adult males and females both
evaluated their body functions (body-as-process; e.g., physical
stamina, physical coordination, and muscular strength) more
positivelythan theirbody parts (body-as-object; e.g., waist, biceps,
and face). Females expressed more dissatisfaction with, and more
negative attitudes towards their body parts than did males; they
also were more likely to want to change these aspects of their
bodies. Although there is a relative scarcity of body image research
relating to males, this literature is growing. Available data
consistently suggest males’ body image is centered on perceptions
of muscularity, strength and instrumentality (Cohane & Pope,
2001; Olivardia, Pope, Boroweicki, & Cohane, 2004; Piexoto Labre,
2002); however, such qualities may be associated with both
functionality and body aesthetics. Failing to incorporate both body
function and aesthetics into the measurement of body image
constricts our understanding of body image, particularly among
Existing measures of function and aesthetics in body image
overlooked or downplayed in body image research, yet these
dimensions are likely to be just as important to the perceptions
individuals hold towards their bodies. To date, there are few scales
assessing both the aesthetic and functional components of body
image. The surveillance subscale of the Objectified Body Con-
sciousness (OBC) Scale (McKinley & Hyde, 1996), the Physical Self-
Description Questionnaire (PSDQ; Marsh, 1996) and the Multi-
dimensional Body-Self Relations Questionnaire (MBSRQ; Brown et
al., 1990) are some of the most comprehensive.
The surveillance subscale of the OBC was designed to measure
the extent to which women habitually monitor their bodies’
outward appearance to ensure it meets the social standard. Low
measureofbody function.Avalosand Tylka(2006)foundwomen to
be less focused onthe external appearance of their bodies and more
body. However, body surveillance incorporates the internalized
it thus may be considered both cognitive and behavioral in that it
does not distinguish between the two. Moreover, the use of body
surveillance as a functional measure has been conducted in female
college samples (Avalos & Tylka, 2006), and while the OBC has been
used in both males and females of various age groups (Knauss,
Paxton, & Alsaker, 2008; Lindberg, Hyde, & McKinley, 2006;
McKinley & Hyde, 1996) its use (as a functional measure) in males
and adolescents has yet to be established.
The PSDQ measures several aspects of the physical self
(appearance, strength, fitness, health, etc.). Although originally
developed for use among both male and female adolescents
(Marsh, 1996), the PDSQ has also been applied cross-culturally
(Marsh, Marco, & Asci, 2002) and in adult populations (Peart,
Marsh, & Richards, 2005). The PDSQ, however, was designed to
measure physical self-concept and does not separate the cognitive,
behavioral and affective/evaluative components that comprise
body image. The MBSRQ measures the cognitive–behavioral and
the evaluative components across several dimensions including
appearance and function (fitness). The MBSRQ was designed to
measure body image in both males and females across age groups
(Brown et al., 1990), butlike the surveillance subscale of the OBC it
measures the cognitive–behavioral components in combination;
separating these components may allow for consideration of the
role of behavioral-investment independent of the values.
This research aims to measure cognitive (values), behavioral
(investment) and affective (satisfaction) components of body
image across both the aesthetic and functional body dimensions,
using a scale developed to incorporate and build upon the
theoretical strengths of the PSDQ, MBSRQ and the surveillance
subscale of the OBC in both genders.
Body image, gender and adolescence
Using a body image measure that incorporates body function
may provide insight into body image differences found across
genders. Adolescence is a period associated with increased body
dissatisfaction (Clay, Vignoles, & Dittmar, 2005) where gender
differences in body image are found to emerge (Rosenblum &
Lewis, 1999). As a result researchers and program developers
invest time and resources into the improvement of body image
among both male and female adolescents. However, such
programs are often targeted towards females in particular, as
adolescent females consistently report higher levels of body
dissatisfaction than do their male peers (Barker & Galambos, 2003;
Cash, Fleming, Alindogan, Steadman, & Whitehead, 2002; Cok,
1990; Davison & McCabe, 2006; Furnham, Badmin, & Sneade,
2002). Incorporating body function into body image research may
allow researchers to view the role that functionality plays in body
image in both men and women. This would allow researchers to
explore contexts (such as organized sports) that focus on the
functionalaspectsof the body, ratherthanitsaestheticqualities, as
possible avenues enabling adolescents (specifically girls) the
opportunity to develop a healthy body image.
When investigating body image in adolescents, it is imperative
that the biological changes to the body are taken into account,
particularly when gender comparisons are made. The onset of
puberty can socioculturally influence the perceptions one has
towards one’s body, and this influence can be different for males
and females (Cok, 1990). Pubertal development moves females
further away from the ultrathin cultural ideal (because of
increased adiposity); this may result in post pubescent females
expressing greater body dissatisfaction than their prepubescent
peers (Thompson & Chad, 2000). Pubertal development in males,
on the other hand, brings adolescent boys’ bodies closer to the
masculine ideal (broad shoulders, muscle development, increased
strength), resulting in boys who mature at slower rate or later than
2001; Piexoto Labre, 2002).
The increase in height and weight as a result of puberty is
associated with an increase in the body’s overall body mass index
(BMI). An increase in BMI is consistently related to poor body
image and body dissatisfaction (Barker & Galambos, 2003; Muth &
Cash, 1997; Paxton, Eisenberg, & Neumark-Sztainer, 2006; Stice &
Whitenton, 2002). Increases in BMI have been found to negatively
B.D. Abbott, B.L. Barber/Body Image 7 (2010) 22–31
influence body satisfaction (Paxton et al., 2006), particularly in
females (Muth & Cash, 1997; Stice & Whitenton, 2002); however,
the relationship is more curvilinear in males (Muth & Cash, 1997;
Presnell, Bearman, & Stice, 2004).
Aims of the current research
Further investigation is required to explore the differing
relationships that male and female adolescents have with their
functional and aesthetic body dimensions, particularly as body
image has been identified as a central concern in adolescents’ lives
(Mission Australia, 2008). This research explored body image
among male and female adolescents using the Embodied Image
Scale (EIS), a measure, built upon previous research (Brown et al.,
1990; Cash et al., 2004; Franzoi, 1995; Lehman & Koerner, 2004;
Muth & Cash, 1997), which incorporates body function into the
multidimensional measurement of body image.
The Embodied Image Scale
The Embodied Image Scale (EIS) is a new measure that was
designed specifically for use within a battery of measures focused
broadly on positive development in adolescence. The EIS measures
body image from a multidimensional perspective. It aims to
measure the cognitive (value), behavioral (investment) and
affective (satisfaction) components of body image separately for
the functional and aesthetic dimensions of the body. The EIS aims
to measure the functional and aesthetic dimensions of the body in
both male and female adolescents. Therefore items are worded
using non-sexist language to ensure the subscales are relevant and
meaningful to both genders. That is, descriptive words associated
with Western body ideals associated with gender such as weight,
thinness, muscularity or strength are avoided. Using a measure
encompassing both the functional and aesthetic dimensions of
body image ina non-discriminativeway enables direct exploration
to be made into the differences and similarities that exist between
males and females.
The first objective of the current study was to explore the
psychometric properties of the EIS. The factor structure of each
dimension, and the subscales’ internal consistency was investi-
gated, followed by an examination of the predictive validity of the
subscales for self-esteem and depressed mood. In line with
previous research, it was hypothesized that both functional and
aesthetic body satisfaction would be positively associated with
self-esteem (Clay et al., 2005; Davison & McCabe, 2006; Franzoi &
Shields, 1984; Furnham et al., 2002) and negatively associated
with depressed mood (Noles, Cash, & Winstead, 1985; Rierdan &
Koff, 1997; Rierdan, Koff, & Stubbs, 1989). The second objective
was to use the EIS to explore body image among Australian
adolescents and investigate mean differences in body image linked
with age, BMI, pubertal timing and gender.
Participants and procedure
The current sample was drawn from wave one of the Youth
Activity Participation Study of Western Australia (YAPS-WA;
Blomfield & Barber, 2009). YAPS-WA participants were Year 8
and 10 students drawn from 26 high schools in several districts
(urban, rural and semirural) across the state of Western Australia.
Overall, 1515 (663 male and 852 female) adolescents (mean
age = 13.8) responded to the YAPS-WA survey, within which 62%
(N = 934, 410 males, 524 females) were in Grade 8 and 38%
(N = 579, 252 males, 327 females) were in Grade 10. Of the sample,
85% of participants were Caucasian, 7% Asian, 2% Aboriginal or
Torres Strait Islander and 6% other (e.g., Middle Eastern, African,
Indian, and Maori). The majority of participants were surveyed via
laptop computers during classes designated by school adminis-
trators. Where the school could not accommodate the laptop
computer setup, the survey was administered in paper and pencil
format. The participants were advised that their survey answers
were confidential and their names would not be attached to their
individual surveys. Students were logged onto the computer
survey using a unique identification (ID) number to maintain this
The YAPS-WAsurvey covered a range of indicators of well being
(e.g., risk behavior, school attachment, body image, self-concept,
self-esteem, depressed mood, and personality), as well as positive
youth experiences, leisure time use, personality, physical devel-
opment (including BMI and pubertal timing), and demographic
information. The current study utilizes the demographic data in
addition to the data pertaining to body image, BMI, pubertal
timing, self-esteem and depressed mood.
Demographic information included participants’ gender, eth-
nicity, and age as well as the grade each was currently completing
Body image was measured using the EIS, designed to measure
value of, investment in, and satisfaction with the aesthetic and
functional body dimensions. The EIS consists of 19 items (see Table
1) measuring 6 subscales: (1) Functional Values (4 items), (2)
Functional Behavioral-Investment (3 items), (3) Functional Satis-
faction (3 items), (4) Aesthetic Values (3 items), (5) Aesthetic
Behavioral-Investment (3 items), and (6) Aesthetic Satisfaction (3
items). Several items were modified from existing measures to
distinguish clearly between functional and aesthetic body image.
Two items were modified from the PSDQ (see Table 1). The first
item (I do physically active things), was modified to include the
word ‘‘often’’ at the end to capture continual, consistent physical
activity; examples were also offered to indicate that physical
activity incorporated more than sports activities. The second item
(I feel good about who I am and what I can do physically; Marsh,
1996), was modified by removing ‘‘who I am and’’ resulting in the
final item reading ‘‘I feel good about what I can do physically’’. This
to the body and not to the self. One item was taken directly and
three items were modified from Lehman and Koerner’s (2004)
Body Orientation Scale (see Table 1). The first item (How good I feel
about my body depends a lot on what my body can do) was modified
to include physically on the end to be more specific to physicality.
The second item (One of the most important reasons why people
should take care of their bodies is so they can do well in physical
activities) was modified to ‘‘One of the most important reasons why
people should take care of their bodies is so they can be physically
active’’ to generalize the measure to physical ability rather than to
focus on physical activities specifically. The third item (How good I
feel about my body depends a lot on whether people consider me
attractive/good-looking) was modified by removing the word
‘‘attractive’’ because including both descriptors was deemed
repetitive. All new EIS items (n = 10) were developed by the first
academic staff members and three postgraduate students.
Before the EIS was administered to the main sample, the scale
was piloted in a small sample of high school students (N = 70, 71%
male, 29% female, mean age = 14.7) to ensure each item was
comprehensible to adolescents in the targeted age range.
B.D. Abbott, B.L. Barber/Body Image 7 (2010) 22–31
Participants were given the list of items in a paper survey format
(see Table 1 for order of presentation) and asked to rate how true
each statement was for them on a 5-point Likert-type scale (1 = not
at all true for me, 5 = very true for me). All items were found to
demonstrate adequate internal consistency (a = .76–.89) within
the pilot sample. None of the participants in the pilot sample
requested verbal clarification on the EIS items and were able to
complete the survey unaided. As a result no changes were made to
the scale before its inclusion in the test battery for the main
Body mass index and pubertal timing
Participants’ self-reported heights (m) and weights (kg) were
used to calculate BMI. A wall-height chart was made available to
participants who were unsure of their height. As the entire survey
was voluntary, participants who expressed discomfort with
responding to the height and weight questions were told they
Body mass indices were calculated using the equation weight (kg)/
height (m2). Participants were categorized as either underweight,
normal weight, overweight or obese in accordance with each
person’s age and gender using the guidelines set by the National
Center for Health and Statistics in collaboration with the National
A high proportion of those sampled (78%: 542 males and 644
females) gave enough data to calculate BMI. The distributions
among BMI categories were comparable among male and female
81% as normal weight, 9% and 6% as overweight and 2% and 2% as
obese, respectively. Participants were instructed to skip any
questions on the survey they did not feel confident or comfortable
answering and as a result 23% (N = 319) of participants did not
majority of these participants (51%) had missing weight data, 21%
were missing height data, and 28% were missing both weight and
height data. These data were not replaced as this may have resulted
in missing BMI participants being given inaccurate scores for BMI.
Information on participants’ pubertal timing was obtained with
the following item; ‘‘Do you think your physical development has
or much earlier than other people your age?’’ (Dubas, Graber, &
Petersen, 1991). Participants rated their physical development in
comparison to their peers using a 5-point Likert-type scale
(1 = much later, 3 = around the same, 5 = much earlier). Ninety-
six percent (N = 1452) of the sample gave data on pubertal timing.
For males and females, respectively, 6% and 6% perceived that they
‘‘alittle later’’,53%and51%as‘‘aroundthe same’’,16%and17%as‘‘a
little earlier’’ and 5% and 4% as ‘‘much earlier’’ than their peers.
Depressed mood and self-esteem
Depressed mood was measured with five items rated on a 6-
point Likert scale (1 = never, 6 = daily) asking participants how
often they ‘‘feel lonely’’, ‘‘lose your appetite or eat a lot when you get
upset’’, ‘‘feel that difficulties are piling up so high that you can’t
overcome them’’, ‘‘feel unhappy or depressed’’, and ‘‘feel there is
nothing nice you can look forward to’’ (Barber, 2006; Barber, Eccles,
& Stone, 2001; Barber & Lyons, 1994; Durkin & Barber, 2002). Self-
esteem was measured using three items that asked participants to
report how often they ‘‘feel satisfied with who you are’’, ‘‘feel good
about yourself’’, and ‘‘feel sure about yourself’’ using the above Likert
scale (Barber et al., 2001). Both depressed mood and self-esteem
scales achieved adequate reliability (a = .77 and .84, respectively).
Results are presented in sections according to the objectives of
the study. The first objective of the study, explore the psychometric
properties of the EIS, was investigated by analyzing the factor
Factor structure and internal consistency of the Embodied Image Scale in Australian adolescents (N=1449).
Functional body image
% of variance
12 – How good I feel about my body depends a lot on what my body can do physicallya
16 – One of the most important reasons why people should take care of their bodies is so they can be physically activea
19 – One of the most important reasons why people should take care of their bodies is so they can feel good about
their physical abilities (e.g., strength, fitness, endurance)
2 – I do physically active things oftenc(e.g., sports, hiking, exercise)
6 – I always try to physically challenge myself during physical activities
8 – I participate in physical activities whenever I can (e.g., sports, hiking, exercise)
14 – I feel really good about what I can do physicallyc
18 – I am very happy with my performance in physical activities
10 – Overall I am very satisfied with my physical abilities
Aesthetic body image
% of variance
1 – How good I feel about my body depends a lot on how I lookb
5 – How good I feel about my body depends a lot on whether people consider me good-lookinga
9 – One of the most important reasons why people should take care of their bodies is so they can look gooda
13 – I always try to look the best I can
11 – I wear certain things to make myself look as attractive as I can
7 – I feel really good about the way I look
15 – I am very happy with the appearance of my body
17 – Overall I am very satisfied with my appearance
The number next to each item represents the order of presentation; items 3 and 4 are missing as these were the items removed as a result of the factor analyses.
aModified from Lehman and Koerner (2004).
bTaken directly from Lehman and Koerner (2004).
cModified from the Physical Self-Description Questionnaire – short format (Peart et al., 2005).
B.D. Abbott, B.L. Barber/Body Image 7 (2010) 22–31
EISsubscales.The second objective, use the EIS toexplore body image
in Australian adolescents and investigate mean differences in body
image linked to age, BMI, pubertal timing and gender, was then
investigated. Body image differences were explored among adoles-
cents indifferentage groups, BMIcategories and withdifferent self-
reported pubertal timing. Gender difference analyses were then
conducted controlling for age, BMI and pubertal timing variations.
Exploration of psychometric properties of the EIS
To investigate the factor structure of the EIS, separate principal
components factor analyses were performed for the aesthetic
dimension of the EIS and for the functional dimension. Only those
participants who gave answers to all items were included in the
Principal components extraction with varimax rotation was
conducted using the statistics program SPSS Version 15.0. Three
factors were specified for extraction based on our conceptual
framing. In the aesthetic dimension analysis the three factors were
aesthetic values, aesthetic behavioral-investment and aesthetic
satisfaction. However, one item, ‘‘I check my appearance many times
throughout the day’’, cross-loaded highly with two factors (values
and behavioral-investment) and was removed from the scale as a
result. After the removal of cross-loaded items, the inclusion of all
three factors accounted for 78% of the variance in aesthetic body
image(seeTable 1 forfactorloadingsaftercross-loadeditemswere
removed). The functional dimension analysis also yielded the three
expected factors: functional values, functional behavioral-invest-
ment and functional satisfaction. However, one item, ‘‘it’s important
to me to feel confident in my physical abilities’’, cross-loaded highly
with two factors (values and investment) and was removed. The
inclusion of all three factors accounts for 74% of the variance in
functional bodyimage whencross-loaded itemswereremoved (see
Table1). When factor analyses were conducted for males and
females separately the same three factors emerged for each gender.
for both males and females (contact author for results).
Correlations among EIS subscales
Pearson Product Moment Correlations were conducted on the
EIS subscales. Aesthetic values were positively related correlated
with functional values in both males and females. Functional and
aesthetic satisfaction were also positively correlated in both male
and female participants. Males’ aesthetic and functional satisfac-
tion were both significantly positively correlated with all other EIS
subscales (see Table 2 below the diagonal). Females’ aesthetic and
functional satisfaction were significantly positively associated
with functional values and behavioral-investment; however, they
were both significantly negatively correlated with aesthetic values
(see Table 2 above the diagonal).
Internal consistency and predictive validity
Internal consistency was investigated using Cronbach’s alpha.
The internal consistency of the EIS was adequate (a = .86). All
subscales were found to have adequate internal consistency
obtaining alpha levels ranging from .72 to .90 (see Table 1). The
predictive validity of the EIS for self-esteem and depressed mood
was investigated using bivariate correlations. As hypothesized,
both aesthetic and functional body satisfaction were positively
correlated with self-esteem and negatively correlated with
depressed mood (see Table 2).
Mean differences in body image for age, BMI, pubertal timing
Age (school grade) and body image
One-way between-groups MANOVAs were conducted for males
and females separately to establish the relationship between body
image and school grade. When male participants were investigated
the omnibus test was found to be significant (Wilks’ Lambda,
p = .03).Asignificantgradedifferenceforaestheticvalueswasfound
F(1, 656) = 5.53, p < .01, with aesthetic values significantly lower in
Grade 8 males (M = 2.7, SD = 0.96) than Grade 10 males (M = 2.9,
SD = 0.99).
found to be significant (Wilks’ Lambda, p = .001). A significant
difference was found between Year 8 and 10 girls for aesthetic
values F(1, 843) = 4.03, p < .05, aesthetic behavioral-investment
F(1, 843) = 10.01, p < .01, functional values F(1, 843) = 20.66,
p < .001,functionalbehavioral-investment
p < .05, and functional satisfaction F(1, 843) = 16.70, p < .001.
Grade 8 girls were significantly lower in aesthetic values (M = 3.0,
SD = 0.98)andaestheticbehavioral-investment
SD = 1.03), but significantly higher in functional values (M = 3.5,
SD = 0.83), functional behavioral-investment (M = 3.7, SD = 0.90),
and functional satisfaction (M = 3.6, SD = 0.98) than Grade 10 girls
(M = 3.1, SD = 0.95, M = 3.5, SD = 0.96, M = 3.2, SD = 0.82, M = 3.5,
SD = 1.04, M = 3.4, SD = 0.96, respectively).
F(1,843) = 5.36,
(M = 3.3,
BMI and body image
One-way between-groups MANOVAswere conducted for males
and females separately to test for differences in the EIS subscales
Correlations among embodied image subscales for male (N=546) and female adolescents (N=631).
Male participants are below the diagonal, female participants are above the diagonal.
aIncludes participants with missing BMI data (coded as 0).
*Significant at .05 alpha level.
**Significant at .01 alpha level.
B.D. Abbott, B.L. Barber/Body Image 7 (2010) 22–31
image. For male participants a significant difference was found
among BMI categories and aesthetic satisfaction F(4, 654) = 6.56,
p < .001, functional values F(4, 654) = 3.79, p < .01, functional
behavioral-investment F(4, 654) = 7.87, p < .001, and functional
satisfaction F(4, 654) = 9.00, p < .001.
Post hoc multiple comparisons were conducted on the BMI
categories, using Tukey’s HSD, to identify which pairs were
significantly different from each other. Aesthetic satisfaction was
significantly higher in normal-weight males than in those with
missing BMI data and those categorized as overweight or obese.
Functional values were significantly higher in normal-weight
males than among those with missing BMI data. Normal-weight
males reported significantly higher functional behavioral-invest-
ment than males with missing BMI data. Obese males reported
significantly lower functional behavioral-investment and func-
tional satisfaction than males in all other BMI groups, including
those with missing BMI data. Normal-weight males reported
significantly higher functional satisfaction than overweight, obese
and missing BMI males (see Fig. 1).
In female participants a significant difference was also found
among the BMI categories for aesthetic values F(4, 846) = 3.95,
p < .01, aesthetic behavioral-investment F(4, 846) = 4.19, p < .01,
aesthetic satisfaction F(4, 846) = 16.41, p < .001, functional values
F(4, 846) = 3.55, p < .01, functional behavioral-investment F(4,
846) = 4.55, p < .01, and functional satisfaction F(4, 846) = 12.28,
p < .001. Post hoc (Tukey’s HSD) analyses revealed that normal-
weight girls reported significantly higher aesthetic values,
aesthetic behavioral-investment, functional values and functional
behavioral-investment than girls who did not provide BMI data.
Underweight girls reported significantly higher aesthetic satisfac-
tion than all other BMI groups including the missing BMI group.
Aesthetic satisfaction was significantly higher in normal-weight
girls than among missing data, overweight and obese girls. Girls
with missing BMI data reported higher aesthetic satisfaction than
overweight and obese girls. Overweight girls had significantly
higher aesthetic satisfaction than obese girls. Both underweight
and normal-weight girls reported significantly higher functional
satisfaction than overweight, obese and missing BMI data girls (see
Pubertal timing and body image
One-way between-groups MANOVAs were conducted for males
and females separately to establish the relationship between body
image and pubertal timing. In male participants a significant
difference was found in pubertal timing and aesthetic satisfaction
F(4, 631) = 3.42, p < .01, and functional satisfaction F(4, 631) = 4.02,
School grade and pubertal timing body image differences in adolescent males (n=636) and females (n=811).
EIS subscales Pubertal timing M (SD)
Much earlierA little earlierAround the sameA little laterMuch later
Means in the same row that do not share superscripts (a, b) are significantly different at the .01 alpha level (c, d) .001alpha level.
Fig. 1. Body image differences between BMI categories for male adolescents
(N = 659).
Fig. 2. Body image differences between BMI categories for female adolescents
(N = 846).
B.D. Abbott, B.L. Barber/Body Image 7 (2010) 22–31
p < .01. Post hoc multiple comparisons (Tukey’s HSD) revealed that
males who physically mature ‘‘around the same time’’ as their peers
reported significantly higher aesthetic satisfaction than males who
matured ‘‘a little later’’ or ‘‘much later’’ than their peers. Functional
satisfaction was significantly higher in males who matured ‘‘around
the sametime’’ or ‘‘a little earlier’’ than their peers than in males who
reported maturing ‘‘a little later’’ than their peers (see Table 3). A
significant difference was also found between pubertal timing and
functional satisfaction in female participants F(4, 806) = 4.66,
p < .001. Females who matured ‘‘a little earlier’’ than their peers
reported significantly lower functional satisfaction than did those
who matured ‘‘around the same time’’ or ‘‘a little later’’ than their
peers (see Table 3).
The aesthetic and functional body dimensions
To investigate gender differences between aesthetic body
image and functional body image a 2 ? 6 mixed design ANCOVA
was conducted. The between-subject variable was gender con-
sisting of two levels (male and female), and the within-subject
variable was body image consisting of six levels (EIS subscales).
School grade, BMI and pubertal timing were entered as covariates,
as significant differences in body image were found for these
variables. For within-subjectcomparisons the Huynh-Feldtepsilon
(.632) was used to calculate new degrees of freedom (3.16,
found to be significant (p < .001) and sphericity could not be
The main effect for body image was found to be significant
F(3.16,4553.23) = 28.451,p < .001.Pair-wisecomparisonsshowed
that participants reported higher value of, investment in, and
satisfaction with the functional body as compared to the aesthetic
body (see Table 4). Between-subject comparisons found the main
effect of gender was also significant F(1, 1440) = 4.01, p < .05.
Females were significantly higher in aesthetic values and aesthetic
behavioral-investment, and significantly lower in aesthetic satis-
faction, functional values, functional behavioral-investment and
functional satisfaction than males (see Table 4).
The current study examined a new scale, the EIS, which was
developed to measure the cognitive (value), behavioral (beha-
vioral-investment), and affective (satisfaction) components of
body image across the aesthetic and functional dimensions of the
body. In doing so, the complexity of body image was illustrated,
along with the differing relations existing between each compo-
nent among male and female adolescents. The findings highlight
differing profiles of body image among male and female
adolescents, contributing to the growing data available on
adolescent males’ body image. It is suggested that measures
focusing primarily on body aesthetics overlook the functional
dimension of the body. This study has illustrated that when
functionality is incorporated into the measurement of body image,
the functionality of the body is valued more highly than
appearance by both male and female adolescents.
The Embodied Image Scale
Within the current sample of Australian adolescents, the EIS
demonstrates acceptable validity and reliability as a measure of
aesthetic and functional body image. The theorized factor structure
each body dimension: values, behavioral-investment and satisfac-
tion. Each subscale displayed adequate internal consistency.
Predictive validity was also displayed and, congruent with previous
research, satisfaction with both the functional and aesthetic body
&McCabe,2006;Franzoi &Shields,1984;Furnhamet al.,2002) and
negatively correlated with depressed mood (Noles et al., 1985;
Rierdan & Koff, 1997; Rierdan et al., 1989).
The EIS was found to discriminate between the aesthetic and
functional body, particularly in the areas of value and investment.
Among female participants, valuing the body for its aesthetic
appealwas associatedwithlowerself-esteem,whereasvaluing the
self-esteem. In both male and female participants, higher
investment in the aesthetic body was associated with higher
levels of depressed mood, but higher investment in body function
was associated with lower levels of depressed mood. These results
indicate that the aesthetic and functional body dimensions are
distinct and should be measured accordingly.
Differences in body image among Australian adolescents
Investigating body image as a multidimensional construct
comprising values, behavioral-investment
allowed the current research to illustrate the complex nature of
body image in the adolescent population. When gender compar-
isons were made, traditional differences in body image emerged,
with females appearing more focused upon and less satisfied with
their appearance than males. These differences could not be
explained by differences in BMI or pubertal timing, as these
surprising, considering the fact that females in western societies
are socialized to value the aesthetic attributes of the body over its
instrumental qualities (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). Further
exploration into the EIS subscales, which included investigating
school grade, BMI and pubertal timing separately for each gender,
highlighted unique body image profiles for males and females.
Older males reported higher value in their bodies’ appearance
than younger males. When BMI was examined, males classified as
normal weight reported the most favorable body image out of all
BMI categories. Normal-weight males reported higher value and
behavioral-investment in the functional aspects of the body, and
also reported higher satisfaction with their bodies’ appearance and
functionality. Males classified as obese reported the least favorable
body image, reporting low behavioral-investment in their bodies’
functionality and low satisfaction with their bodies’ appearance
and physical function. Pubertal timing was also influential in body
satisfaction, with males maturing around the same time as their
peers reporting higher aesthetic and functional body satisfaction
than later-maturing males. Earlier-maturing males were also
higher in functional satisfaction than were their later-maturing
EIS subscale means for male and female adolescents.
EIS subscales Total (N=1445)Males (n=635)Females (n=810)
Functional subscale means are all significantly higher than aesthetic subscale
means at .001 alpha level. All male means differed significantly from female means
at .05 alpha level.
B.D. Abbott, B.L. Barber/Body Image 7 (2010) 22–31
This study provides valuable data regarding the nature of body
image among male adolescents. Physical attractiveness is often
associated with instrumentality and muscularity for men (Piexoto
Labre, 2002). The findings of this study support this conceptualiza-
tion of male body image. Males did not make a significant
distinction between the aesthetic body and the functional body.
Aesthetic values were positively associated with functional values
and aesthetic behavioral-investment was also positively asso-
ciated with functional behavioral-investment. Thus, males’ value
of and investment in improving and maintaining the functional
body may not be dissimilar to their value of and investment in the
aesthetic body, as muscularity may be considered a characteristic
of both dimensions.
When females were examined, older girls valued and invested
in aesthetic aspects of the body more than did the younger girls.
Grade 8 girls placed more importance on the functionality of the
body than on its appearance, and also reported investing more
effort into and being more satisfied with the functional dimension
of the body than did older girls. At both grade levels, girls classified
as underweight were more satisfied with their aesthetic appear-
ance than girls in all other weight categories. Aesthetic satisfaction
in the remaining BMI categories followed a linear path, with
normal-weight girls reporting higher satisfaction than overweight
girls, who in turn were more satisfied with their appearance than
obese girls. Satisfaction with the body’s physical function was
highest in underweight and normal-weight girls. Functional
satisfaction was also lowest in girls who matured earlier compared
to those who matured around the same time as or later than their
The separation of values and investment into distinct subscales
highlighted the roles each category may play in body satisfaction,
particularly in the case of females. In female participants, higher
value and behavioral-investment in the body’s functional qualities
were associated with higher aesthetic and functional body
satisfaction. However, valuing the body for its aesthetic appeal
was associated with lower aesthetic and functional body satisfac-
tion. No relationship was found between aesthetic behavioral-
investment and aesthetic or functional body satisfaction, suggest-
ing that value in the aesthetic dimension may be more important
to body satisfaction than is aesthetic behavioral-investment.
Similarities in body image among Australian adolescents
The most compelling findings of the current study were the
similarities that emerged in aesthetic and functional body image
between males and females. Although gender differences in body
image emerged, several similarities were also found in male and
female body image when body function was taken into account.
a higher emphasis on body attractiveness than younger (Grade 8)
adolescent males and females. This suggests that regardless of
their gender, as adolescents get older their appearance becomes
more important to their body image (Jones, 2004). Males and
females also reported higher satisfaction with their appearance
and functionality if they were categorized as being of normal
weight than if they were categorized as overweight or obese,
not only for females, but also for males.
The most noteworthy gender similarity emerged when func-
tional body image was compared to aesthetic body image. Both
male and female participants in the current sample reported
valuing and investing more, and being more satisfied with, the
functional dimension of the body than the aesthetic dimension.
Measuring body image from an additional functional perspective
suggests that body aesthetics may not be as important to females
as it traditionally appears. That is, females in the current sample
reported that having and maintaining a physically capable body
was more important to them than having and maintaining a
physically attractive body. It could be suggested that females may
not automatically attend to their body’s functionality when asked
to reflect on or evaluate their bodies. However, when asked to
consider the functional aspects of the body, the importance of this
dimension to female body image is made clear. Hence, measures
failing to incorporate the functional dimension of the body when
measuring body image may be considered limited. The majority of
pertinent studies have investigated body image from an aesthetic
perspective; the current study highlights the need for researchers
to incorporate body function into their investigations of body
image in order to explore the complexity of the construct and
address this limitation.
The current study has several limitations that should be noted
study investigating a range of indicators of well being in Western
Australian adolescents. The EIS was administered within a lengthy
battery of other measures and as a result of time limits, other
measures of body image were not included. This resulted in an
inability to assess the construct validity of the EIS, which is a major
limitation of the current study. In addition, test re-test reliability
was also not assessed and must be noted as a limitation. The
gender equivalence of the EIS items was also not examined in the
current study. Although the items in the EIS were designed to be
gender-neutral, this neutral quality cannot be assumed without
further investigation to establish whether the EIS items are indeed
conceptualized in a similar manner by both males and females.
Further psychometric investigations would be useful to address
these limitations before its use in future research as a measure of
Although the current study involved a large sample drawn from
26 high schools across Western Australia, it should be noted that
the majority of the participants were self-classified as Caucasian.
As a result, generalizing the current findings of the EIS to other
ethnic populations (or age groups) should be done with caution.
of the EIS in different age groups and ethnic populations,
particularly within those populations that hold competing cultural
body ideals to those of western cultures.
In order to calculate BMI, the study relied upon participants’
self-reported height and weight. Although self-reports of height
and weight have often been correlated with objective height and
weight measurements (Goodman, Hinden, & Khandelwal, 2000),
these findings are not consistent (Hill & Roberts, 1998). Therefore,
the validity of this measure is uncertain. The distribution among
the BMI categories in the current sample is not consistent with
distributions among national data samples where larger propor-
tions of the population are categorized as overweight (14–18%) or
obese (5–6%; Booth, Wake, Armstrong, Chey, Hesketh, & Mathur,
2001). As a result, only small samples of self-reported overweight
(6–9%) or obese (2%) individuals were represented in the current
sample. Twenty-two percent of participants did not give sufficient
information to calculate BMI and, therefore, were not included in
the above distribution. There is a possibility that these participants
would have fallen into the overweight or obese categories.
Analyses of body image among the BMI categories indicate that
those with missing BMI reported similar body image to those
classified as overweight and obese, and it is therefore likely that
the BMI data were not missing at random. The missing BMI
B.D. Abbott, B.L. Barber/Body Image 7 (2010) 22–31
category may, in part, reflect a reluctance by those with below-
average confidence in their bodies to report on their weight.
To measure pubertal timing, participants were asked to rate
they perceived their physical development to be in comparison to
their peers. This measure relies on self-reports over objective
measures. Although this may be viewed by some as a measure
limitation, it should be noted that puberty cannot and should not
be measured purely by its physiological changes, as these changes
occur in a sociocultural context where social comparisons are
highly influential, particularly to adolescent body image (Davison
& McCabe, 2006; Jaffe & Lutter, 1995; Jones, 2004).
A change in focus for the future
In spite of these limitations, the current research has demon-
strated that measuring body image from both an aesthetic and a
functional perspective broadens our understanding of body image
among male and female adolescents. Within the current sample,
adolescents with the least favorable body image were males
classified as obese, who reported being later in their pubertal
development compared to their peers, and females classified as
overweight or obese, who tended to mature earlier than their
peers. This highlights areas of focus for educators and program
developers in their design of programs that are aimedat improving
body image among male and female adolescents.
Further research may explore contexts that encourage adoles-
cents to focus on the body’s functionality over its aesthetic appeal
as possible avenues for decreasing body dissatisfaction in
adolescents. This research has emphasized a need for young
women to evaluate their bodies from an alternative viewpoint
rather than through the lens of an aesthetically focused cultural
ideal. Future research aimed at improving body image among
adolescent girls should investigate contexts that challenge
objectified views of the female body (such as organized sports
or physically challenging activities). Challenging the objectifying
messages of Western society (for example, those received via
sexualized media images) may encourage females to develop a
higher value for their bodies’ functional qualities, and may also
enable them to invest in their bodies as instrumental tools rather
than primarily as aesthetic objects (Brady, 2005; Tiggemann,
2001), increasing their overall body satisfaction as a result. This
research illustrates that in comparison to younger females, the
functional capabilities of the body are less important to, and less
invested in, by older girls. Therefore continued exposure to
functionally focused contexts throughout adolescence could be
explored as an avenue that encourages girls to maintain a balance
in focus between body function and form.
The sporting context is a functionally focused realm with the
potential to provide adolescent girls with values and experiences
of the body that challenge the objectified image of the female body
often portrayed in Western culture (Tiggemann, 2001). Sports
participation has been associated with more confidence in and
satisfaction with the functional aspects of the body. Specifically,
sports participants report higher self-assessed physical fitness
(Aarnio, Winter, Peltonen, Kujala, & Kaprio, 2002), higher sports
competence (Gadbois & Bowker, 2007; Jaffe & Manzer, 1992; Jaffe
& Ricker, 1993), greater instrumentality, locus of control and
personal efficacy (Parsons & Betz, 2001), and a more positive
physical self-concept (Schumaker, Small, & Wood, 1986) than do
nonparticipants. Sports participation rates are significantly lower
in female adolescents than among males (Aarnio et
Dovey, Reeder, & Chalmers, 1998); sports participation by both
genders during earlier adolescence has been associated with
These findings suggest that involvinggirls in a functionallyfocused
context such as organized sports at an early age may buffer girls
against a negative body image in later adolescence. The educa-
tional setting is another context whereby objectified views of the
female body could be challenged (Scott & Derry, 2005). Programs
that educate adolescents (males and females) about sexual
objectification and allow them to experience and view the body
in a functional capacity could be incorporated into school
curricular to encourage healthy body image among adolescents.
It is suggested that future research might attempt to use a
measure that builds upon EIS to understand body image in
populations where physical function may be of particular
importance (for example, individuals with an illness affecting
physical function, physically disabled individuals, athletes). Future
research expanding on the EIS model is encouraged to enable
in a similar fashion to that employed in the PSDQ (Marsh, 1996)
and measure the value, investment and satisfaction individuals
have with particular aspects of each dimension (for example;
aesthetics – face, legs, chest; function – strength, coordination,
flexibility). Measuring body image from a multidimensional
perspective de-objectifies body image by deflecting the focus
from aesthetics and highlighting the importance that functionality
plays in adolescent body image. Additionally, research investigat-
ing both the functional and aesthetic dimensions of body image
has the potential to provide program developers and educators
at improving body image among adolescent populations.
The research reported in this article was funded by a grant from
the Australian Research Council to Bonnie Barber and Jacquelynne
Eccles. We are grateful to the 26 high school principals, their staff
and the students who participated in the study. We would also like
to thank Corey Blomfield and Joshua Brain for their exceptional
help in collecting the data.
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