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Wednesday 23rd May 2018

Children want 'perfect' bodies

4th September 2009

Young children feel pressure to have so-called perfect bodies, according to a new study.


Researchers quizzed children as young as 10 years old and found that a significant number of them were at risk of developing psychological problems linked to their weight.

Such problems would include anorexia, bulimia, or using laxatives to stop weight gain.

Researchers said that the childhood obesity epidemic was partly to blame.

They said that that both young girls and boys tend to feel unhappy if they believed they were too fat, and that they may go on to try to use dieting pills, laxatives, vomit their food, or simply not eat as they grow older.

For the purposes of the study, researchers at Harvard University and the University of Alberta in Canada asked children whether or not they agreed with the statement: "I like the way I look."

Of the 4,254 children studied, those whose homes were in rural zones were the most frequently affected by a negative body image.

Some 7.5% of all children between the ages of 10 and 11 answered that they never or almost never felt they liked the way they look.

Some 10% of children are obese by the time they start primary school, according to official figures.

There was a difference in the way boys and girls responded to the researchers' questions, and the response was less dramatic in boys.

5.7% of the girls and 7.6% of the boys quizzed by researchers felt badly about their bodies, though they had a normal weight.

Nearly twice that number of overweight girls, 10.4%, compared to less than a percentage point more of overweight boys, did not feel happy with the way they looked.

Of the girls who were obese, 13.1% disliked their bodies.

While 8.1% of obese boys said they disliked their bodies, this was less than the number of overweight girls who said they disliked their bodies.

Obesity, which is defined using the Body Mass Index (BMI), is calculated using the ratio of a person's weight in kilograms to the square of their height.

A BMI of less than 16.5 is considered severely underweight, while a BMI of over 40 is the scale's extreme of obesity.

Bryn Austin of from Harvard University, who led the study, said that there is a well-established relationship between poor body satisfaction and an increased risk of eating disorders.

She also said that poor body satisfaction among males with a low Body Mass Index may reflect the cultural ideal for males to attain both muscularity and leanness, whereas thinness remained the culturally defined ideal body shape for females.


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