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

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.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

We would like to thank the principals, teachers and girls from the participating schools.

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Correspondence to Hayley K. Dohnt.

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Hayley Dohnt, B. Psych. (Hons.), is completing her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Flinders University. Her major research interests are in the area of child psychology and the development of body image.

Marika Tiggemann’s Professor of Psychology at Flinders University. Her major research interest is in media influences on body image. She is Associate Editor for the journal Body Image.

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Dohnt, H.K., Tiggemann, M. Body Image Concerns in Young Girls: The Role of Peers and Media Prior to Adolescence. J Youth Adolescence 35, 135 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-005-9020-7

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KEY WORDS

  • body image
  • dieting awareness
  • socio-cultural influences
  • young children