, Volume 28, Issue 5, pp 603-618

Body Size Estimations, Body Dissatisfaction, and Ideal Size Preferences in Children Six Through Thirteen

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Abstract

Results of the second year of a 3-year longitudinal study on children's body size estimations are reported. Participants were 216 male and female children age 6 through 13. Body size estimations were measured using a TV-video methodology. Three psychophysical procedures measured perceived body size, idealized size, and body dissatisfaction. Self-esteem, body esteem, birth order, number of siblings, and parents' socioeconomic status (SES) were measured.

Children were accurate in estimating body size, with no gender, age, or ethnic differences. Individual estimations varied greatly over the 1-year test-retest interval. Children had a slight bias to report that their body size was distorted too wide. Both genders wanted to be thinner, with females wanting to be increasingly thinner as they became older. Females were also more dissatisfied with their body size. Taller and heavier children with high SES fathers wanted a thinner idealized body size. Taller, thinner children had less body size dissatisfaction. Children with a larger number of siblings who were one of the first born were more dissatisfied with their body size. Children who gained weight during the previous year without a concomitant growth in height were also more dissatisfied with their body and wanted to be thinner. Body size estimation is viewed as an important aspect of one's body image and is mediated by many different variables, each of which individually explains only a small part of the variance.