In the past two decades, eating disorders have come to be an issue of social concern. Many researchers have focused on the etiology of eating pathology in adolescent and young women. It is my contention that females are affected early in their development by societal standards of beauty and that the groundwork for eating disorders is laid during the preadolescent years. In an extensive literature review, I have found that even children as young as six are aware of the social stigma associated with fatness and are compelled to compare their own bodies to societal ideals. Also, some young children have tried to control their weight by dieting and a small number have begun to display behavior that is similar to eating disorder symptoms.
It is not enough to identify these behaviors in children; we must also investigate which factors influence them. The empirical literature supports the hypothesis that parents directly and indirectly impact their children’s body dissatisfaction and dieting practices with direct comment regarding their children’s appearance and with encouraging statements to control their weight. These findings are important because if children can be influences to create a negative body image while they are young, perhaps this negative body esteem can be reversed trough education or parental involvement and preadolescent girls can be encouraged to feel more positively about themselves.
Kayla Haptonstall, ’00 Golden, CO
Majors: Psychology and Spanish
Sponsor: William Dragon