Objective: The ability of young women (n = 132, average age 17 years) to recall body size and age at menarche was examined. The use of body silhouettes to assist women in recalling their body size at menarche and to represent their current body size was also evaluated.
Research methods and procedures: Subjects, who previously participated in a cohort study, were asked to recall height and weight at the time of menarche, to select body silhouettes that best reflected their body shape at the time of menarche and their current body shape, and to recall age at menarche. Two sets of body silhouettes were developed, one representative of an adult body shape and another representative of an adolescent body shape.
Results: Pearson correlation coefficients between the adult and adolescent body figures and actual body mass index (BMI; kg/m(2)) at the time of menarche were not significantly different (r = 0.82 for adult figures vs. r = 0.72 for adolescent figures, p > 0.05). The correlation between actual BMI at the time of menarche and body silhouette (r = 0.77, all subjects) was similar to the correlation between actual and recalled BMI at the time of menarche (r = 0.83) as well as the correlation between current BMI and current body silhouette (r = 0.75). Recalled and actual ages at menarche were highly correlated (r = 0.83).
Discussion: The recall of body shape was considered to be a less precise measure of body size than asking about height and weight, but use of body silhouettes may offer advantages in certain situations.