Is Your Pre-teen Happy With Their Body Image?

Over the past couple of years, parents have been inundated with information about obesity in children. It is now well known that obesity, which used to be a 1 in 10 phenomenon with regard to children, has grown to 1 in 3 in the U.S. and 1 in 4 in Canada. The seriousness of obesity in children is difficult to overstate. One of the areas that researchers have been focusing on is kids' Body Mass Index (BMI) and how it is associated with a measure of their body satisfaction. The BMI index is a  measure of healthy body weight in relation to a person's height. A team of researchers from Harvard University and the University of Alberta, Canada studied over 4000 Canadian school children aged 10 and 11 years. What they found is that girls rated their body image satisfaction higher as they became thinner. With boys, on the other hand, body satisfaction was related to pressures on two-sides. That is, boys' body image satisfaction reduced if they were too thin or too overweight.

You can read more here and here.

This research underscores how early these psychological pressures come to bear on kids. Previous research has shown that kids who are unhappy with their body image are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviours to ensure that their ideal body image is attained. This can mean vomiting, fasting, and the use of laxatives and diet pills for weight control. For boys, this can also lead to excessive use of steroids in order to obtain the idealized lean yet muscular look.

What can parents do? It can sometimes feel overwhelming given the pressures of media and fast food outlets. Although it can feel like an uphill battle, parents of preteen children can exercise their influence through both material and psychological means. Materially, parents of preteens control what foods are brought into the house and what restaurants kids go to. Psychologically, parents can take the time to educate their kids on the importance of healthy eating and self acceptance.

Tell us about your experience. How have you handled these issues with your child?

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