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Appetite. 2005 Dec;45(3):225-34. Epub 2005 Sep 22.

A longitudinal study to explain strategies to change weight and muscles among normal weight and overweight children.

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School of Psychology, Deakin University, Melbourne, Burwood, Vic. 3125, Australia.


Previous research has indicated that both boys and girls strive for a slim body, with boys having an additional focus on a muscular body build. The current study was designed to evaluate the utility of a biopsychosocial model to explain body image and body change strategies among children. The study evaluated changes over time in body image and strategies to lose weight and increase muscles among 132 normal weight and 67 overweight boys (mean age = 9.23 years) and 158 normal weight and 55 overweight girls (mean age = 9.33 years). The predictive role of BMI, positive and negative affect, self-esteem and perceived sociocultural pressures to lose weight or increase muscle on body image and body change strategies over a 16 month period was evaluated. All participants completed the questionnaire on both occasions. The results demonstrated that both overweight boys and girls were more likely to be dissatisfied with their weight, place more importance on their weight, engage in more strategies to lose weight as well as perceive more pressure to lose weight. Overweight boys and girls were also more likely to report lower levels of self-esteem and positive affect, and higher levels of negative affect, and reported a reduction in their self-esteem over time. Regression analyses demonstrated that among overweight boys, low self-esteem and high levels of perceived pressure to lose weight predicted weight dissatisfaction; for overweight girls, weight dissatisfaction was also predicted by low levels of self-esteem. The implication of these findings in terms of factors contributing to the adoption of health risk behaviors among children is discussed.

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