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Dev Psychol. 2008 Jul;44(4):1124-34. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.44.4.1124.

Sociocultural and individual psychological predictors of body image in young girls: a prospective study.

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  • 1School of Psychology, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia.


This study investigated the prospective predictors of body image in 9- to 12-year-old girls. Participants were 150 girls in Grades 4-6 with a mean age of 10.3 years. Girls completed questionnaire measures of media and peer influences (television/magazine exposure, peer appearance conversations), individual psychological variables (appearance schemas, internalization of appearance ideals, autonomy), and body image (figure discrepancy and body esteem) at Time 1 and 1 year later at Time 2. Linear panel analyses showed that after controlling for Time 1 levels of body image, none of the Time 1 sociocultural variables predicted body image variables at Time 2. Body mass index (BMI; a biological variable) and psychological variables, however, did offer significant prospective prediction. Specifically, higher BMI, higher appearance schemas, higher internalization of appearance ideals, and lower autonomy predicted worsening body image 1 year later. Thus, higher weight and certain psychological characteristics were temporally antecedent to body image concerns. It was concluded that both biological and individual psychological variables play a role in the development of body image in children. Individual psychological variables, in particular, may provide useful targets in prevention and intervention programs addressing body image in 9- to 12-year-old girls.

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