“I just don’t want to be fat!”: body talk, body dissatisfaction, and eating disorder symptoms in mother–adolescent girl dyads

  • Ellen HartEmail author
  • Chong Man Chow
Original Article



Mothers serve as a primary socializing figure among adolescent girls at a time when they are at high risk of body image concerns and disordered eating behavior, and this influence may vary by weight status. Body talk may be one mechanisms of influence in this relationship. The current study utilized an observational measure of body talk to investigate the relationship between adolescent girls’ body talk with mothers, eating disorder symptoms, and body dissatisfaction.


Participants included 100 mother–daughter dyads who completed self-report measures of body dissatisfaction and eating behavior and engaged in a 10-min discussion about the daughter’s body image.


Results indicated that the relationship between both positive and negative body talk and body dissatisfaction varied by weight status. For healthy/underweight adolescents, negative body talk is related to higher body dissatisfaction (b = 0.04, SE 0.01, p < 0.01) and positive talk is related to lower body dissatisfaction (b = − 0.06, SE 0.02, p < 0.001). No relationship was found for individuals of overweight/obese status. Body talk was unrelated to eating disorder symptoms for all adolescents.


Given the current findings, mothers should continue to limit their engagement in body talk (particularly negative talk) within the home.

Level of evidence

V, cross-sectional descriptive study.


Body talk BMI Body dissatisfaction Eating disorder symptoms Parent–child Adolescence 



This study was funded by the Faculty Research Fellowship grant supported by Eastern Michigan University.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of Eastern Michigan University Human Subjects Review Committee.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from mothers for themselves and their adolescent daughters; daughters under 18 provided assent to participate.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Eastern Michigan UniversityYpsilantiUSA

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