The moderating effect of gender role on the relationships between gender and attitudes about body and eating in a sample of Italian adolescents
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The differential prevalence of eating disorders in males and females can be explained by the impact of gender-role orientations. Inside the Italian socio-cultural context, gender socialization can be influenced by stereotypical gender beliefs, and this may contribute to the psychological distress of individuals who identify with discrepant gender roles from their biological sex. Our study explored, within the Italian context, the potential moderating effect of masculinity and femininity on the relationships between gender and attitudes about body and eating.
Nine hundred and twenty Italian male and female adolescents (M = 427, F = 493; age 14–21 years) completed the Eating Disorder Inventory-2 (EDI-2) and the Bem Sex-Role Inventory (BSRI).
A moderating effect of gender role on the relationship between gender and bulimia, and drive of thinness emerged. Girls with higher levels of masculinity scored higher on bulimia than did their counterparts with lower levels, and boys with higher levels of femininity scored higher on bulimia and on drive for thinness than did their counterparts with lower levels. Data did not reveal a moderating effect of gender role on the relationship between gender and body satisfaction.
Our data suggest that adolescents who endorsed a gender role that is socially considered discrepant from their biological sex (girls with higher levels of masculinity and boys with higher levels of femininity) are more likely to show higher level of bulimia and drive of thinness. This suggests the need for prevention and treatment programmes for eating disorders that take into account individuals’ gender-role orientation and the influence that culturally dominant gender beliefs can exert on it.
KeywordsGender Gender roles Body dissatisfaction Bulimia Drive for thinness Italian adolescents
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
On behalf of all the authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.
In conducting the present research, ethical guidelines were followed. All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Participation in the study was voluntary and the information provided was anonymous and confidential.
Written informed consent was obtained from all participants prior to participation in the study.
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