Article Review: An Exploration of the Drive for Muscularity in Adolescent Boys and Girls

The following is a review of McCreary & Sasse’s (2000) article, “An Exploration of the Drive for Muscularity in Adolescent Boys and Girls” by Kelsey Winters.

The authors discuss the differences in weight-related behaviors between adolescent males and females. While girls tend to focus on thinness, boys are more inclined to focus on gaining weight and appearing bulkier. “28%-68% of adolescent boys are trying to gain weight” (McCreary & Sasse, 2000). The authors further remark that boys primarily want to become more muscular. The authors then go on to discuss the consequences of striving for muscularity. These include: engaging in binge eating; anabolic androgenic steroid use; weight-related health problems; and the assumption that striving for muscularity will result in low levels of self-esteem and high levels of depression (McCreary & Sasse, 2000).

Overall, the authors of this study were curious about whether gender will moderate the association between the drive for muscularity and psychological outcome measures (McCreary & Sasse, 2000). McCreary and Sasse developed a Drive for Muscularity scale. In creating the measure, the authors polled a group of weight-training enthusiasts, asking about factors that motivate them, as well as how they felt after missing a session (McCreary & Sasse, 2000). In addition to this, the authors analyzed content of various weight-training magazines. From this, the authors developed a list of motivators, which they asked both men and women to review in order to determine the face validity. The result was a 15-item Drive for Muscularity Scale.

This study had 197 high school students from Ontario, Canada, 101 girls and 96 boys. The age range was 16 to 24 years, with the average age being 18 years old. The authors used a pencil-and-paper survey to determine demographic information from the participants, as well as several questionnaires. The first questionnaire was the Drive for Muscularity Scale the authors developed which measured the attitudes and behaviors that reflect the degree of people’s preoccupation with increasing muscularity (McCreary & Sasse, 2000). Next, the authors used behavioral indicators to assess the participant’s involvement in weight-training activities (how many times a week the individual weight-trained and diet).  The authors also used the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) to assess for psychological well-being. And finally, the authors used the Eating Attitude Test (EAT) and Body Dissatisfaction subscale from the Eating Disorders Inventory (EDI) to determine the individual’s drive for thinness.

Two weeks prior to the testing date, Sasse approached each class to explain the goals of the study and answer any potential questions of the volunteers. The overall goal of the study was to “examine the reliability and validity of the drive for muscularity construct, as operationalized by the DMS” (McCreary & Sasse, 2000). The DMS had an overall high alpha (.84), and alpha levels of .84 and .78 for boys and girls, respectively. However, the authors felt that the wording for Item 14 was confusing and misleading. Therefore, they removed the item and ran another analysis. The overall alpha level for the entire sample was now .83, and the alpha level for boys was .82. Girls’ alpha level remained the same.

The authors looked three different forms of validity: face validity, discriminant validity, and convergent validity. The authors determined face validity by examining the sex differences in each of the DMS items plus the scale average. A one-way MANOVA was calculated to protect against Type 1 errors, with sex being the independent variable. This analysis resulted in a significant effect. In addition to the MANOVA, independent sample t-tests were run for each item, which resulted in significant differences on nine of the 15 items between boys and girls. Finally, boys scored significantly higher than girls on the overall scale average (McCreary & Sasse, 2000).

In looking at convergent validity, the authors examined whether DMS scores varied as a function of whether participants were trying to gain weight (McCreary & Sasse, 2000). The authors ran a 2×2 ANOVA (boys/girls x yes/no). They found a main effect of sex plus a significant main effect for the weight-gain variable. The authors also assessed for correlations between the DMS and the frequency of weight-training sessions per week. This resulted in a positive correlation between the two. Finally, the authors assessed intercorrelations between DMS and self-esteem and depression. They looked at these separately between the sexes. The results yielded a significant association between drive for muscularity, and poorer self-esteem and higher depression for boys only (McCreary & Sasse, 2000).

Discriminant validity was assessed by looking for correlations between the DMS and EAT and BD scales. The results showed that the DMS is uncorrelated with the EAT scale and slightly negatively correlated with the BD scale. For boys, the DMS was positively correlated with EAT and uncorrelated with the BD scale. For girls, the DMS was uncorrelated with both the EAT and BD scales. The authors concluded that the two drives (drive for muscularity and drive for thinness) were independent of each other (McCreary & Sasse, 2000).

Overall, this study did an adequate job in assessing the reliability and validity of the DMS. However, one of the primary limitations is being restricted to the Ontario region. The sample size of 197 is also on the smaller side. It does not appear to be very generalizable to other populations. After looking at Figure 1 and reading the revisions the authors made to the wording for some of the questions, I think it is a better worded scale.

McCreary, D. R., & Sasse, D. K. (2000). An exploration of the drive for muscularity in adolescent boys and girls. Journal of American college health, 48(6), 297-304.