Body image of primary school children

Body image of primary school children

22 September 2014
Body image of primary school children

This article outlines findings from a recent report that examined the level of satisfaction that children have with their own body image.

According to new research from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), children are expressing dissatisfaction with their body size as early as 8-9 years old, and the majority of 10-11 year olds are trying to control their weight.

The research paper, Body image of primary school children, draws upon LSAC data to understand the level of satisfaction that children have with their own body image and how this may influence their social, emotional and physical wellbeing.

The paper shows that large numbers of boys and girls aged 8-9 years have experienced body image dissatisfaction; and children who were dissatisfied with their body image were more likely to have poorer social and emotional wellbeing and physical health.

Overall, the research found:

  • boys and girls of the younger cohort (8-9 years) were less likely to report their body size accurately than the older cohort (10-11 years);
  • on average, regardless of age and body mass status, boys and girls both wanted to have a slightly thinner than average body size;
  • a large number of boys and girls at 8-9 years experienced dissatisfaction with their body size;
  • older children were more likely to be satisfied with their body image, though it varied between children of different body size;
  • the majority of children at 10-11 years tried to control their weight in different ways, depending on body size and body image dissatisfaction;
  • a large proportion of mothers of children aged 10-11 years were concerned that their children were not eating properly (either too little or too much); and
  • for children aged 10-11 years, there was a strong relationship between body size dissatisfaction and physical health and socio-emotional wellbeing, regardless of body size.

As children grew older, the proportion satisfied with their body increased among underweight and normal weight children but decreased among overweight children, regardless of gender.

Despite this improvement in satisfaction with body image, more than half of all boys (61%) and girls (56%) aged 10-11 years had tried to manage their weight in the past 12 months. Compared to girls of the same age, more boys tried to gain weight or do something to control their weight. In terms of losing weight, however, there were no differences between boys and girls.

Access the full report.


The feature image is by Quinn Mattingly, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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