, Volume 44, Issue 9-10, pp 557-569

Social Cognitive Predictors of Body Image in Preschool Children

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Abstract

To better understand origins of gender differences in body confidence, the present study examines predictors of body image suggested by Social Cognitive Theory (A. Bandura, 1997): models (from mothers, peers), verbal messages (from mothers, peers, teachers), physiological factors (age, body mass, health status), and experience of competence related to body image (social competence, food competence). Variables were gathered from child interviews, mother questionnaires, and teacher questionnaires for 94 preschool children (52 boys, 42 girls; mean age – 54.2 months; 90.2% Caucasian). Body image was measured with seven same-gender silhouettes (M. E. Collins, 1991). No gender differences were found for the body image of preschool children. Messages from the mother to “be bigger” were the most consistent predictor of body image. However, only for boys were mother's messages a valid reflection of the child's actual body mass, which if continued, could produce greater body confusion for girls at later ages.