Perceptions of self in 3-5-year-old children: A preliminary investigation into the early emergence of body dissatisfaction

Department of Psychology, Laurentian University, Ramsey Lake Road, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.
Body image (Impact Factor: 2.19). 06/2011; 8(3):287-92. DOI: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2011.04.004
Source: PubMed


The main objective of this study was to investigate normal weight and overweight preschool children's ability to understand conceptualizations of body image and their association with parental perceptions of their child's body. One hundred and forty-four children aged 3-5 years were interviewed (68 girls and 76 boys) regarding their body image and their satisfaction with such. Parents completed a questionnaire that probed socio-demographic characteristics as well as their perceptions of their child's body image. Results showed that (1) children's misperceptions corresponded to those held by their parents. Specifically, overweight children and their parents underestimated the child's body size. (2) Gender differences in body dissatisfaction were consistently observed and were similar to those seen in adolescents and adults. It was determined that children's inaccuracies were not a result of developmental limits, that is, the participants' inability to understand the concepts measured.

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Available from: Line Guylaine Tremblay, May 20, 2014
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    • "As children's growing representational competencies provide a new, self-relevant forum for applying existing anti-fat knowledge and attitudes, young children are at risk for critical, body-related evaluations of self. Recent research suggests that body dissatisfaction emerges during childhood rather than adolescence (Maloney, McGuire, Daniels, & Specker, 1989) and children as young as five years have reported purposefully restricting eating, dissatisfaction with their own body weight, and awareness of their peers' own body dissatisfaction (Dohnt & Tiggemann, 2005; Tremblay, Lovsin, Zecevic, & Larivière, 2011). The etiology of this dissatisfaction is not known, though even short-term exposure to unrealistically proportioned dolls like Barbie (Dittmar, Halliwell, & Ive, 2006) and mothers' Body Mass Index (BMI) positively correlates with older girls' reported body dissatisfaction (suggesting attitude transmission through close relationships, Jacobi, Schmitz, & Agras, 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: Body image research with young children has typically examined their body satisfaction and overlooked developmental theories pertaining to their emergent body-knowledge. Though existing research suggests that preschoolers do demonstrate anti-fat attitudes and weight-related stigmatisation, body dissatisfaction can be difficult to assess in preschoolers due to developmental differences in their (i) ability to perceive their actual body size accurately and (ii) make comparisons with a hypothetical ideal. We review current findings on the attitudinal component of body image in preschoolers, together with findings on the accuracy of their body size perceptions and their emergent body awareness abilities. Such an integration of the cognitive development literature is key to identifying when and how young children understand their physical size and shape; this in turn is critical for informing methodological design targeted at assessing body dissatisfaction and anti-fat attitudes in early childhood.
    Early Child Development and Care 11/2014; 184(11). DOI:10.1080/03004430.2014.881357
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    • "For example, are those 4-year-olds who pass false-belief tests making accurate judgments about their body's proportions? In research on body image, however, the use of self-selection body arrays often targets the disparity between children's selection of their current versus their ideal body size—a measurement requiring children to identify their own body from a pictorial array (Collins, 1991; Holub, 2008; Lowes & Tiggemann, 2003; Tremblay, Lovsin, Zecevic, & Lariviere, 2011). Can these body array tasks achieve their goals if preschool children's perception of body size and shape is still rudimentary? "
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    ABSTRACT: Research to date has focused mostly on children's representation of their physical self as a prelude to the development of a theory of mind (ToM) and on their understanding of the self as distinct from others over time. Whether children approaching the well-known age of ToM mastery are also accurately appraising their own body's functional relationship to the everyday environment remains largely an unanswered question. Little work has investigated typical preschool-age children's explicit accuracy when making judgments about their own body's proportions. In the current study, 98 preschoolers made 16 practical judgments about whether their own body or an experimenter's body could fit through an apparatus (half of the apparatuses were 30% smaller than the body in question, and half were 30% larger). Overall, accuracy increased with age but was unrelated to body size. Children in all age groups performed above chance, and accuracy did not differ depending on target (e. g., self or other). Children in a comparison condition judging fit of inanimate objects (n = 23) performed similarly, though showed less evidence of "yes" bias, and there were no age-based differences in accuracy. Results are discussed with regard to preschoolers' developing body awareness, as are implications for research protocols in which children are asked to accurately identify their own body size and shape from an array.
    Journal of Cognition and Development 09/2014; 15(4):584-598. DOI:10.1080/15248372.2013.797905 · 1.08 Impact Factor
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    • "That is, holding a college degree predicted pressuring the child to eat compared with having a high school or university degree. Also, contrary to the literature associating low-income single-parent household and lower education to parental perception of the child overweight (Baughcum et al., 2001; Tremblay, Rinaldi, et al., 2011), none of the child or parent characteristics predicted parents' accuracy of perception of their children's body size. The composition of our sample may explain these results. "
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    ABSTRACT: The general objective of this study was to assess parents’ perceptions of their preschooler's body weight, and the association between children's current weight status and parental feeding strategies. A sample of 150 parents of three- to five-year-old children (72 girls and 78 boys) completed questionnaires on sociodemographic information, body-size perception of their child, and feeding practices information. Children were classified into weight categories according to body mass index scores. Results showed that: (1) parents of children who were overweight were less accurate in determining their child's body size, (2) parents who did perceive their child's body size accurately reported being more concerned with their child's eating habits and weight when this child was actually overweight, (3) parents who were accurate in perceiving their child's weight reported using more food restriction than parents who were inaccurate, and (4) parents of girls reported significantly more monitoring of sweets and snack food consumption than parents of boys. Prevention programmes should be implemented in early childhood and include parent education components.
    Early Child Development and Care 08/2012; 182(8):1027-1040. DOI:10.1080/03004430.2012.678598
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