Social Comparison: Gender, Target Importance Ratings, and Relation to Body Image Disturbance

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sex, target importance in social comparison & relation to body image & eating disturbances, college students


Asked 189 female and 108 male undergraduates to rate the importance of 6 groups (e.g., family, friends) as comparison targets for 7 attributes (e.g., figure/physique, intelligence). Factor analysis of the 42 ratings yielded 3 components, largely reflecting a particularistic-universalistic comparison target dimension rather than an attributional configurement. Factor analysis was also conducted on pooled target ratings for the 7 attributes. Gender by target effects emerged, indicating male–female differences in comparison tendencies. Strong gender differences emerged when factor scores were correlated with indices of body dissatisfaction and eating disturbance, reflecting significant relationships only for females. Findings indicate that the ascribed importance of a comparison group is a better predictor of body image disturbance than is the similarity between the S and the comparison target.

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Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, v. 7, issue 2, p. 335-344