Little girls worry about being fat, unmoved by images of beauty

Little girls worry about being fat, unmoved by images of beauty

Nearly half of the 121 three to six-year-old girls studied worry about being fat, according to a study by University of Central Florida (UCF) psychology professor Stacey Tantleff-Dunn and doctoral student Sharon Hayes.

The study concluded that their behaviour or self-esteem did not appear to be influenced by video clips of the beautiful, thin princesses in animated children's movies.
This contradicts earlier studies showing how the self-esteem of older girls and women suffers after short-term exposure to thin, beautiful models on TV and in movies.
Studies have shown that girls worried about their body image are more likely to suffer from eating disorders when they are older.

Each of these 121 girls was taken into a room with a "playmate" -- a trained research associate in her 20s who had experience working with children.

After chatting for several minutes, the playmate asked each girl how she feels about the way she looks. Thirty-one percent indicated they almost always worry about being fat, while another 18 percent said they sometimes worry about it.
"We need to help our children challenge the images of beauty, particularly thinness, that they see and idolise and encourage them to question how much appearance should be part of their self-worth," said Tantleff-Dunn, who directs UCF's Lab for the Study of Eating, Appearance and Health.

While the study found no short-term consequences for young girls, the media's portrayal of beauty is one of the strongest influences on how they perceive their bodies because children spend so much time watching movies and television, Tantleff-Dunn said.
That's why it's important for parents to use movies such as "The Princess and the Frog," which premieres in the US Dec 11, to start conversations with their children about weight, skin colour and their perceptions of beauty, she said.

They can explain that princesses' tiny waists are not realistic for girls and that children don't need Cinderella's golden hair or Snow White's porcelain skin to look good.
These findings were published online in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology.

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