2010, Number 4
Salud Mental 2010; 33 (4)
Desarrollo y validación de una escala para medir imagen corporal en mujeres jóvenes
Rodriguez AB, Barneveld HO, Gonzalez-Arratia NI, Unikel-Santoncini C
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Body image is a concept which involves the feelings, attitudes and perceptions people have about their own body, and is influenced by the adoption of social standards. Body image studies are used in the field of eating disorders research in order to analyze the degree of body dissatisfaction. However, most of the scales proposed to assess body image have been developed in Anglo-Saxon and European countries. Therefore, research on this topic in other socio-cultural contexts requires the standardization and validation of culturally adapted instruments.
The aim of the present study was to determine and discuss the reliability and validity of a Mexican scale which measures body image. Additionally, comparisons regarding body dissatisfaction, internalization of the aesthetic ideal of thinness, social influence, age and Body Mass Index (BMI) were made between groups of female college students with and without disordered eating.
Materials and methods
The sample of this study comprised 508 female college students from the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, selected by means of a probabilistic stratification procedure taking into account the proportion of female students enrolled in each academic area of the university. Their average age was 20.1 years; their mean weight was 57.2 kg with an average height of 1.58 m, whereas the average BMI was 22.8.
Based on the theoretical assumptions, three indicators were defined to structure the Body Image Scale: body dissatisfaction, social influence and the internalization of the aesthetic ideal of thinness, measured by a five-point Likert-type scale ranging from never (1) to always (5).
A pilot study was carried out in a population of 100 college women; as a result, some adjustments were made in the instructions and in the order of the items. Additionally, a content validation was conducted through the judgments of four professional experts in the clinical mental health area.
The scale contains thirty-three items; six of them refer to criticism and family pressure to maintain a slim silhouette and twelve address body dissatisfaction. The remaining fifteen items were taken from the Attitudes Towards Body Figure Questionnaire developed by Unikel, Gomez Peresmitré and Juarez.
After using Kaiser–Meyer–Olkin’s (KMO) and Bartlett’s tests for establishing the factor structure of the instrument and obtaining a value of 0.94 (p‹ 0.001), the composition of the final version of the scale consisted of twenty-six items grouped into three factors:
Factor I: Body dissatisfaction, containing 10 items, with a mean of 3.1 (s.d.=0.8), accounting for 17.9% of the variance and with a value of Cronbach’s Alpha of .84.
Factor II: Internalization of the aesthetic ideal of thinness, including 10 items with a mean of 3.5 (s.d.=0.9) which explained 15.2% of the variance and with a value of Cronbach’s Alpha of .89.
Factor III: Social influence consisted of 6 items with a mean of 3.8 (s.d.=0.8), and accounted for 9.9% of the variance and with a value of Cronbach’s Alpha of .82.
A discriminant analysis was performed in order to determine if there were any differences according to body image and disordered eating and to establish the predictive validity of the scale. The results indicated that 13 of the 26 items correctly classified the body image scale in 98.2% of the original grouped cases and 97.4% of the cases grouped by cross-validation.
A comparative analysis using Student’s t-test was conducted among students who had high and low scores in BCCAR (Brief Questionnaire to measure Risky Eating Behaviors), yielding significant differences in their scores on all three factors of the scale. This indicates that women with disordered eating show significantly higher degrees of body dissatisfaction, internalization of the aesthetic ideal of thinness and social influence than women without disorder.
The results of the study showed that the Body Image Scale has acceptable levels of validity and reliability, making it an adequate instrument for differentiating between women with and without disordered eating.
The results reveal that high levels of body dissatisfaction were expressed in the majority of the sample, which is consistent with a previous study performed by Baile, Raich and Garrido in Spain, where 80% of the teenage girls expressed dissatisfaction with their body image. Lamerias et al. also found that 85% of the Spanish female college students were dissatisfied with their weight.
A considerable degree of internalization of the aesthetic thin body ideal was observed in the sample, as a significant percentage of the participants with body dissatisfaction referred that body weight is important for getting nice clothes and that they are willing to do anything for a slimmer body shape. Also, physical appearance and body weight are deemed necessary for feeling fine.
As the difference in body image in terms of eating behaviors risk is concerned, women presenting more risk obtained higher mean scores on the body dissatisfaction, internalization of the aesthetic thin body ideal and social influence factors, which could be a consequence of their perception of disapproval and body disgust. Troisi et al. also reported having found significant negative correlations between body image satisfaction and the presence of eating disorders.
The findings of the comparison between body image dissatisfaction in terms of BMI showed that women with low weight are the least satisfied, followed by the ones who present obesity. This suggests that individuals with extreme thinness tend to have greater body image dissatisfaction, whereas Mirza, Davis and Yanovsi found that persons who are overweight or obese are the most dissatisfied.
Regarding the internalization of the aesthetic thin body ideal and BMI, the highest scores were obtained in underweight women, followed by the obese ones. This is consistent with what Unikel et al. refer, mentioning that a thin body is socially perceived as more attractive, and also eating less is considered to be more feminine.
It is concluded that, according to the results of the study, the proposed scale constitutes an adequate instrument for measuring body image in Mexican samples. Taking some items from already validated instruments proved to be useful for integrating all dimensions of the construct. However, it is considered necessary to obtain data on concurrent validity, sensitivity and specificity values in other samples and to determine cut-off points, in order to confirm its usefulness for research on body image.