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.


Available from: Line Guylaine Tremblay, May 20, 2014
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    • "Our response: daily physical education, and medical authorities are now calling for cholesterol screening in children! @BULLET Too many children, girls and boys, have negative body images. In fact a Canadian study by Dr. Line Tremblay of Laurentian University found children as young as three are unhappy with their bodies (Tremblay, Lovsin, Zecevic, & Larivière, 2011).based programs are uncertain. "
    Full-text · Conference Paper · Feb 2015
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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). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] 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.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · Early Child Development and Care
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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? "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] 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.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Journal of Cognition and Development
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