The super man: Examining associations between childhood superhero imaginative play and wishful identification and emerging adult men’s body image and gender beliefs.

Lindsay Roberts, Jennifer Stevens Aubrey, Larissa Terán, Leah Dajches, L. Monique Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Despite the prominence of superheroes in the current cultural landscape, there is little research on the influences of these characters on boys’ and men’s notions of masculinity. In the current study, we examined the associations between emerging adult men’s recollections of superhero imaginative play and superhero wishful identification during childhood and their consequent body image and gender beliefs in young adulthood. Based on a sample of 616 undergraduate men (Mage = 19.16, SD = 1.18) from two universities, the results indicated that childhood superhero wishful identification was a predictor of both body image outcomes (the internalization of media ideals for male appearance standards and self-worth based on physical appearance) and endorsement of traditional masculine norms. Although superhero imaginative play was not a consistent predictor of body image or gender beliefs, counter to our predictions, this variable was negatively related to traditional masculinity norms. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved) Public Significance Statement—The present research suggests that idolizing superheroes during early childhood was associated with more traditional beliefs about masculinity and stricter, media-based ideals of attractiveness, but imaginative play was related to less traditional beliefs about masculinity. Based on this research, parents, caregivers, and educators might encourage children to engage imaginatively with superheroes, but they might also need to intervene to temper idolization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-400
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology of Men and Masculinity
Volume22
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 4 2021

Keywords

  • body image
  • emerging adults
  • gender beliefs
  • social cognitive theory
  • superheroes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'The super man: Examining associations between childhood superhero imaginative play and wishful identification and emerging adult men’s body image and gender beliefs.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this