Body image or body images?: Comparative, multidimensional assessment among college students

J Pers Assess. 1990 Spring;54(1-2):213-30. doi: 10.1080/00223891.1990.9673988.


A major criticism of research on body image concerns the dubious assumptions of the unidimensionality of the construct and the equivalence of body-image measures. Our study of 125 male and female college students compared multiple measurement methods within each of two modalities of body image: (a) perceptual (body-size estimation) and (b) attitudinal (body-image affect and cognition). Clinically relevant indices of psychological adjustment and eating disturbance were included. Results clearly supported the distinction between attitudinal and perceptual modalities of body image and indicated more convergent and discriminant validity for the former than for the latter. Whereas one method of assessing size-estimation accuracy and most body-image attitudes produced relationships with maladjustment, only attitudinal body image and perceptual, self-ideal discrepancy measures were significantly linked to eating disturbance. Relationships were generally more consistent for women than for men. Implications are discussed in the context of extant and future research on body image with clinical and nonclinical populations.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Body Image*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality Assessment*
  • Psychometrics