Dieting awareness and low self-worth: related issues in 8-year-old girls

Int J Eat Disord. 1998 Dec;24(4):405-13. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1098-108x(199812)24:4<405::aid-eat7>;2-d.


Objectives: Since weight concerns and dieting are apparent before adolescence, this study examined the factors predictive of early dieting awareness. It was hypothesized that early dieting awareness would be negatively associated with perceived self-worth, particularly in girls.

Methods: One hundred seventy six 8-year-old children (86 girls, 90 boys) completed assessments of body shape preference, body and self-esteem, dieting awareness, and body weight and height.

Results: Children were more likely to advise a fictitious character, "Mary-Jane," to diet than they were to report dieting themselves. However, self-endorsed dieting was more strongly correlated with negative self-perception, especially in girls. Significant predictors of dieting awareness in girls included global self-worth (negatively), body mass index (BMI), and frequency of mother dieting (positively).

Conclusions: This study supports the view that young girls are drawn to weight control to improve their self-worth, and that mothers are influential in this regard. This early pattern of association is of questionable acceptability.

MeSH terms

  • Body Image*
  • Body Weight
  • Child Behavior
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet, Reducing*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Self Concept*