Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 135-145

First online:

Body Image Concerns in Young Girls: The Role of Peers and Media Prior to Adolescence

  • Hayley K. DohntAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, Flinders University Email author 
  • , Marika TiggemannAffiliated withFlinders University

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Peer and media influences have been identified as important conveyors of socio-cultural ideals in adolescent and preadolescent samples. This study aims to explore peer and media influences in the body image concerns and dieting awareness of younger girls, aged 5–8 years. A sample of 128 girls was recruited from the first 4 years of formal schooling. Individual interviews were conducted to assess the aspects of body image, as well as dieting awareness by means of a brief scenario. A number of sources of peer and media influence were examined. It was found that by 6 years of age, a large number of girls desired a thinner ideal figure. Both peer and media influences emerged as significant predictors of body image and dieting awareness. Specifically, girls’ perceptions of their peers’ body dissatisfaction predicted their own level of body dissatisfaction and dieting awareness. Watching music television shows and reading appearance-focused magazines predicted dieting awareness. In particular, girls who looked at magazines aimed at adult women had greater dissatisfaction with their appearance. Thus, the present study highlights that girls aged 5–8 years of age are already living in an appearance culture in which both peers and the media influence body image and dieting awareness.


body image dieting awareness socio-cultural influences young children