Struggles with body image can start in elementary school

Struggles with body image can start in elementary school

“If I lose 10 pounds, I’d be so much prettier.”

This is a phrase that causes concern among loved ones of college girls who struggle with their appearance. However, it’s not just 20-somethings who struggle with body image – kids younger than 10 years old are also unhappy with the way they look, according to new research.

Five percent of 8-year-old girls and three percent of boys of the same age said they were unhappy with their bodies in a survey of 6,000 British children. Six years later, when these kids were 14 years old, 39 percent of the girls had dieted in the past year and 8 percent had binged. Twelve percent of boys also had dieted, and 3.5 percent had binged.

“A major reason for an increase in eating disorders, poor body images and dieting — all at an increasing young age — has to do with what is in the media and social media,” says Sarah Katula, psychiatric advanced practice nurse at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill. “Young girls are bombarded with ideas of beauty that are unrealistic, unattainable for most and often not even real.”

Media played a large role in skewing the perceptions of children in the survey, research showed. About 20 percent of girls reported feeling “quite a lot” or “a lot” of pressure from the media to lose weight. Children with mothers who experienced anorexia, bulimia or both were also at an increased risk of being dissatisfied with their bodies.

“Mothers who are constantly dieting and unhappy with their bodies can also influence their daughters again, on what is of value,” Katula says. “Even fathers can negatively influence their daughters if they are prone to commenting on women’s bodies or how women look.”

To help girls develop a positive body image, Katula recommends keeping girls involved in sports, music and intellectual activities.

“They can ‘distract’ girls from the everyday barrage of societal messages that are only focused on aesthetics, quite shallow and often misogynistic,” she says.

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Comments

3 Comments

  1. Fred G. Sanford August 3, 2015 at 12:28 pm · Reply

    If you think your children are being heavily influenced by the media, give this a thought (this mostly applies to females). Do you ever watch the Disney Channel or any other major market network geared toward children?
    Every princess, queen, hero, heroine, super hero, main character of the story, etc. are always white. We are talking 99.3% of the time. They have long straight hair and white skin. Every villain is somehow associated with the color black. Either black hair, black eyebrows and facial hair, dark clothes, dark vehicle, are set with a dark background, etc.

    Now, how do you think this has made little brown girls in general feel since the inception of television or any and all forms of media? Let’s go back decades and generations. This is not to begin a discussion about skin color. Rather this is to inform many members of the majority that things you have recently come to understand as being problematic have been being endured on a much larger scale than you could ever imagine by Americans who make up the minority for generations.
    From childbirth, many Americans are indoctrinated with an inferiority complex concerning the way God made them naturally. This inbred inferiority complex has been passed on from generation to generation and stretches to countless facets of life. It is not getting better, it is getting worse. However, that is just the way life is.

  2. “A major reason for an increase in eating disorders, poor body images and dieting — all at an increasing young age — has to do with what is in the media and social media…” ALSO, the kids are also getting fatter at these ages, thus becoming unhealthy physically and emotionally.
    “They can ‘distract’ girls from the everyday barrage of societal messages that are only focused on aesthetics, quite shallow and often misogynistic…” What? First off, the ascetics of beauty are genetically ingrained as well as socially constructed. Second, women play an equal part in deciding what is beautiful as men are. Men are attracted to all sorts of kinds of beauty with athletic healthy bodies just being one of them (and that’s not even for 100% of men). If all women thought that wasn’t beautiful, and all men did and forced them to look that way or face punishment…THAT would be misogyny. Our current system is the a natural system where men and women equally compete for the attention of potential mates and those which exhibit the most positive attributes get the best mates. Someone could have the best body in the world and the worst personality in the world and I’m pretty sure no one of merit is going to put or keep a ring on them. Someone could be the greatest person to talk to in the world but be a hippo, and the same thing will happen…its going to be pretty hard to find someone to put or keep a ring on them.
    And why would anyone be going the route where an 8 year old is obese and that an ok thing?!?! The health implications alone are scary lest the social impact of being that weight at such an early time in ones formative years.
    “To help girls develop a positive body image, Katula recommends keeping girls involved in sports, music and intellectual activities.” Which just so happen are the things make a person well rounded socially, intellectually, and physically…which later in life lead to an individual being in a great position to finding a suitable mate. The problem here is not the media’s portrayal of body image, but the fact that we as a society don’t encourage the aforementioned activities and lifestyles….especially the physically fit part. We talk a great game, but show very little for it. If we take the lead as adults then our children will see that and emulate it. We need to take personal responsibility for the things we can control and quit finding conformational biased excuses like “the media”!

  3. @Fred,

    You realize Disney movies are made from old literature created in European Countries, typically Western Europe, right? What type of person lives there? White, blonde, thin, Germanic… It has nothing to do with society in this particular instance. Other social media, of course, but fairy tales? No.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.