Body dissatisfaction during middle childhood
Body dissatisfaction is a prevalent concern in modern societies and can lead to significant and long-term health difficulties. This paper is divided into two parts and evaluates aspects of body dissatisfaction during middle childhood. The first part provides a systematic review of the published literature examining body dissatisfaction during middle childhood. The inclusion criteria were any quantitative studies that recruited children aged six to nine years, measured body dissatisfaction and at least one other biopsychosocial variable. A total of 31 studies were selected for the review. It was found that body dissatisfaction is prevalent in children as young as six years, and that body image concerns increase with age. BMI was the most consistent predictive risk factor for later body dissatisfaction, and longitudinal studies showed that higher BMI predicts greater body image difficulties. For the second part of this paper, an empirical study was conducted to examine the relationship between parental and child's body dissatisfaction and how some of the parental behaviours are associated with the child's self-reported body dissatisfaction. A sample of 250 parent-child dyads of children aged 6 to 9 years completed an online survey where parents were asked to indicate their body dissatisfaction, body appreciation and answer questions about their explicit (comments to their child and teasing about the child's weight), implicit (parental modelling of own body dissatisfaction and weight-loss strategies) behaviours, and parental feeding practices. Children were asked to indicate their perceived current and ideal body size. Results indicated that parental body dissatisfaction was positively associated with their child's body dissatisfaction. Moreover, all parental weight-related behaviours correlated with the child's reports of body dissatisfaction. However, mediation analysis revealed that none of the three proposed parental behaviours mediate the relationship between parental and child body dissatisfaction. In conclusion, body dissatisfaction develops well before adolescence, and children's and parental body dissatisfaction are already associated by the age of 6 to 9 years. Early intervention programmes should empower parents to foster positive body image to their children during middle childhood.