Children's body image concerns and eating disturbance: a review of the literature

Clin Psychol Rev. 2001 Apr;21(3):325-44. doi: 10.1016/s0272-7358(99)00051-3.


In recent years a large number of studies have examined body image concerns, and early symptoms of eating disturbance among children. However, to date there has been no synthesis or evaluation of these studies. The purpose of the present article is to review and evaluate the research that has examined body image concerns, and eating attitudes and behaviors among children 6 to 11 years of age. The instruments used to assess body image concerns and eating disturbance in children closely resemble those used with adolescents and adults. Overall, the psychometric data for these instruments are very good and there is sufficient evidence indicating that they can be used reliably and validly. In addition, similar variables to those studied in adolescent and adult samples have been found to be associated with children's body image concerns and early eating disturbance. These include gender, age, body mass index, race, sociocultural pressures, and self-concept. Our understanding of the development of body image concerns and eating disturbance in children is limited, however, by the fact that most of the research in this field has been based on cross-sectional data, and the studies have focused almost exclusively on weight loss cognitions and behaviors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Image*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Child Development*
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / etiology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Peer Group
  • Racial Groups
  • Research Design
  • Self Concept
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Support