The relationships of social physique anxiety, body image and body composition on the risk of developing eating disorders in youth gymnasts
In many aesthetic sports, such as gymnastics, athletic success is dependent to a great extent upon physical characteristics, specifically small body size and low body fat. Previous research also suggests that late developing children self-select into sports such as gymnastics because of the advantages of having this prepubescent physique. One of the concerns expressed with regard to the pressure that this exerts on a young athlete is that gymnasts are at risk for body image dissatisfaction and social physique anxiety, which could lead to disordered eating. Although a number of studies have looked at these two issues, one physical and one behavioral, in isolation, very few have looked at them together. The primary purpose of the present investigation was to examine the relationship of body dissatisfaction and social physique anxiety to the risk of developing an eating disorder in youth female and male gymnasts. The second purpose was to investigate the relationship of chronological age, maturity, and body composition to body image dissatisfaction and social physique anxiety in female and male gymnasts. The participants included male (n = 42) and female (n = 74) competitive gymnasts from four different gymnasts clubs within the Saskatoon area. Age, height, and weight were recorded. Individuals were classified into maturity groups using chronological age bands. An index of body fatness was obtained by summing either eight or nine skinfold measures. Body image was assessed by responses to a pictorial questionnaire. Social physique anxiety, a measure of the anxiety one experiences in response to others evaluating one's physique, was obtained through a modified Social Physique Anxiety Scale. Three sub scales of the Eating Disorder Inventory, Body Dissatisfaction, Drive for Thinness, and Bulimia, were used to measure risk for developing an eating disorder. Data were analyzed using Person Product Moment Correlations, two-way factorial ANOVA, and Chi-square analysis. Results showed that there was an association between body image dissatisfaction and the risk for an eating disorder (Ï‡2 = 16.290, p < 0.05) in female gymnasts, but not males (Ï‡2 = 1.493, p > 0.05). No associations were found between social physique anxiety and the risk of developing an eating disorder in either female or male gymnasts. When divided into maturity categories again no associations were found between body image dissatisfaction and maturity groups in either gender. In females, there was a positive significant correlation (r = 0.50, p < 0.05) between social physique anxiety and age. In males there was a negative significant correlation (r = -0.51, p < 0.05) between social physique anxiety and age. When the gymnasts were banded into three maturational categories, social physique anxiety was significantly different between maturity groups (F(1,110) = 15.411, p < 0.05) and genders also showed different patterns of social physique anxiety. In contrast to males, females with a greater sum of skinfolds experienced higher social physique anxiety scores. When grouped by sum of skinfolds, social physique anxiety was significantly different between groups (F2,110) = 192.301, p < 0.05) and genders also showed different patterns of social physique anxiety. In contrast to females, in males there was an association between sum of skinfolds and body image dissatisfaction. In conclusion it was found that these gymnasts were not a risk for developing an eating disorder. There was also no association between age and body image dissatisfaction in either females or males; however, social physique anxiety increased with increasing age in females but decreased with increasing age in males. Note:Page 128 has been removed due to copyright reasons.
Master of Science (M.Sc.)
College of Kinesiology
College of Kinesiology