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Br J Health Psychol. 2003 May;8(Pt 2):135-47.

Body dissatisfaction, dieting awareness and the impact of parental influence in young children.

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Flinders University of South Australia, Australia.



This study aimed to assess the level of body dissatisfaction and dieting awareness in young children.


A sample of 135 children aged between 5 and 8 years old were individually interviewed. Body dissatisfaction was assessed by means of figure preference ratings, and dieting awareness by responses to a brief scenario.


The difference between boys' ratings of current and ideal figures was not significant at any age; nor was that of 5-year-old girls. However, 6-, 7- and 8-year-old girls rated their ideal figure as significantly thinner than their current figure. For dieting awareness there was no significant gender effect, although level of dieting awareness increased with age. Multiple regression analyses showed that body dissatisfaction was predicted by gender and perception of mothers' body dissatisfaction, while age was the only significant predictor of dieting awareness.


A substantial proportion of young children have internalized societal beliefs concerning the ideal body shape and are well aware of dieting as a means for achieving this ideal. In particular, the desire for thinness emerges in girls at around age 6.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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