Can Body Mass Index (BMI) be used as a proxy for somatotype?

Genovese, Jeremy E.C.
June 2009
Social Science Journal;2009, Vol. 46 Issue 2, p390
Academic Journal
Abstract: In a paper published in The Social Science Journal, Maddan et al. [Maddan, S., Walker, J. T., & Miller, J. M. (2008). Does size really matter? A reexamination of Sheldon''s somatotypes and criminal behavior. The Social Sciences Journal, 45, 330–344.] proposed that Body Mass Index (BMI) can be used as proxy for somatotype, a quantitative system for describing body build, in social science research. This paper tests this proposal using a sample of 200 males from an archival data set collected by Sheldon [Sheldon, W. H. (1942). The varieties of temperament: A psychology of constitutional differences (with S.S. Stevens). New York: Harper and Row Publishers.]. The data included somatotype data, height, and weight. BMI was calculated and individuals were assigned to the categories endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph based on the Maddan et al. BMI criteria. The BMI method was only able to correctly classify 110 individuals, 55% of the sample. This finding suggests that BMI is an inadequate proxy for somatotype.


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