Maternal influences on body image and eating concerns among 7-and 8-year-old boys and girls: Cross-sectional and prospective relations Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVE:Little is known regarding maternal influences on the body image and eating concerns of young children. The current study aimed to examine the cross-sectional and longitudinal relationships between maternal comments about their child's weight and shape and eating, and mothers' own body dissatisfaction and disordered eating on one hand, and their children's body esteem and disordered eating behaviors on the other. METHOD:Children, n = 244 of the fifth wave, aged 7 years (58% female), and n = 194 of the sixth wave, aged 8 years (57% female), of the longitudinal Children's Body Image Development Study, in Melbourne, Australia were included. Mothers completed measures of body dissatisfaction, dietary restraint, and comments and concerns regarding their children's weight and eating behaviors. They also reported on their children's disordered eating behaviors. Children's body esteem was assessed through a child interview. RESULTS:Findings revealed cross-sectional and prospective bivariate relationships between maternal comments and disordered eating behaviors among both boys and girls. Similar patterns of relationships emerged between maternal body dissatisfaction and lower child body esteem. CONCLUSION:Findings highlight the importance of conducting prevention within the family environment from a young age, and targeting both direct communication as well as parental body image and eating behaviors.

publication date

  • 2019