Gender Differences in Peer and Parental Influences: Body Image Disturbance, Self-Worth, and Psychological Functioning in Preadolescent Children

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body image, peers, parents

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The connections between body image disturbance and psychological functioning have been well established in samples of older adolescent girls and young women. Little is known, however, about body image in younger children. In particular, little is known about possible gender differences in preadolescent children. The current study explored self-reported body image disturbance and psychological functioning in relation to peer and parental influences in 141 elementary school-aged girls and boys aged 8–11. Results suggest that girls are more concerned about dieting and are more preoccupied with their weight than are boys. Girls also reported a greater drive for thinness and a higher level of family history of eating concerns than did boys. Correlations suggested that girls' experiences of body image concerns (body dissatisfaction, bulimia, and drive for thinness) were related to a number of factors (such as family history of eating concerns, peer influences, teasing, depression, and global self-worth) whereas boys' experiences of body image concerns were related to fewer factors. On the basis of these findings, the assessment and treatment of body image concerns in preadolescent children (especially girls) are of great importance. Implications for intervention and prevention programs are discussed.

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Journal of Youth and Adolescence, v. 33, issue 5, p. 421-429