Background. To address the gaps in the literature examining eating disorders among males and gender minority youths, a prospective study was designed to assess gender differences in eating disorder symptom presentation and outcomes. Muscularity concerns may be particularly relevant for male youths with eating disorders, and were included in assessment of eating disorder symptom presentation.
Methods. All male youths who presented for specialized eating disorder treatment at one of two sites were invited to participate, along with a group of matched females, and all youths who did not identify with the sex assigned to them at birth. Youths completed measures of eating disorder symptoms, including muscularity concerns, and other psychiatric symptoms at baseline and end of treatment.
Results. A total of 27 males, 28 females and 6 trans youths took part in the study. At baseline, Kruskal-Wallis tests demonstrated that trans youths reported higher scores than cisgender male and female youths on measures of eating pathology (Eating Disorder Examination – Questionnaire (EDE-Q) and the body fat subscale of the Male Body Attitudes Scale (MBAS)). These analyses demonstrated that there were no differences between cisgender male and female youths on eating disorder symptoms at baseline. However, repeated measures ANOVA demonstrated that males had greater decreases than did females in eating pathology at discharge than did females, based on self-reported scores on the EDE-Q, MBAS, and Body Change Inventory.
Conclusions. Gender differences in eating pathology appeared at baseline, with trans youths reporting higher levels of eating pathology than cisgender youths, though no differences between cisgender males and females emerged at baseline for eating disorder symptom presentation. Contrary to expectations, there were no gender differences in measures of muscularity concerns. Males demonstrated greater eating disorder symptom improvements than females, suggesting that male adolescents may have better treatment outcomes than females in some domains.