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Psychiatr Danub. 2017 Sep;29(Suppl 3):409-415.

Perception of body image in early adolescence. An investigation in secondary schools.

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Family Counseling of Foggia, via C. Baffi, 1, Foggia, Italy,



The clinical evidence shows that the onset of eating disorders is increasing in the prepubescent phase or even in childhood. Already starting from the prepubescence the certainties related to the body start to unwind and the individual is encouraged to build new ones, based both on the anatomic transformation of his/her own body and on the social expectation according to the identity. The onset of a Eating Disorders is normally between 13 and 25 years, but in the last years we recorded a lowering in the onset threshold to an age between 11 and 13 years, with some earlier cases at 7 years (Franzoni et al. 2012). Many theories consider body dissatisfaction as the immediate antecedent to the development of this eating disorder. Different studies have confirmed that a strong concern for physical appearance could sometimes precede an eating disorder (Cuzzolaro 2004). The alteration of the body image is the major predictive factor for the relapse, the patients themselves refer that it is one of the major obstacles for the realization of a lasting recovering. In the following study one hundred kids between 10 and 15 years old, without any Eating Disorders diagnosis, have been tested to evaluate whether if already from this age there is a concern about body image starting at this age, the fear of gaining weight and the desire to be slimmer. It is known, indeed, that these factors, if significantly present in a subject, can turn into predictive factors of a psychopathology. We need to build our body image over time; changing our percertion of reality can change also what we see, in particular the body image we strive for changes (Bianchini 2008).


100 teenagers split in 53 females and 47 males aged between 10 and 14 years, randomly picked in the secondary school.


The results of the study show that in the age between 10 and 15 years the concern for the body shape is already present, without difference between the genders. Although 45% of the sample is underweight, the Figure Raiting Scale test both males and females want to be of lesser weight. 91 subjects reached a BSQ test score of over 34, so most of the sample has a strong concern for their physical appearance. The results obtained by administering the BUT test also highlighted concern about the body with moderate gravity.


Body dissatisfaction, as so many studies have confirmed, can be considered a precursor of psychopathology. Concerns concern both female gender and male gender. It is also necessary to pay close attention to the pressure exerted by family members, friends and the media towards a difficult to reach thinness ideal. That is why we need to focus on strengthening protective factors in adolescents with prevention and awareness campaigns which are properly targeted.


The work resulted a useful reflection on the building of the body image as an early risk factor for the onset of pathologies linked to this concept. We need to commit to an educative practice of support for adolescent, recognition and sharing, which does not avoid the presence of the adults, but in fact it is enriched. It would be appreciated if we could introduce in the school, in the program of different subjects, the discussion regarding different aspects of a healthy nutrition and the formation of a solid self-esteem in order, for the students, to have a critical interpretation of the media message on food, body and beauty. It is desirable to promote the emancipation of the adolescents from a condition of dependence to discover their own place in the world. The educative action can help developing the research of the meaning of the own personality.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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