Body Image Development in Children
There are many reasons to be interested in the development of body image during childhood. We might assume, for example, that a positive body image is related to global self-esteem. Furthermore, it is evident that by early adolescence, negative body image predicts the development of depression and eating disorders. Presumably, adolescent negative body image is rooted in childhood body image.
Unfortunately, the empirical support for these assumptions is quite limited. There is certainly research concerning body image development during childhood. However, it is rarely of the type that allows us to examine causal relationships, either in the etiology or the outcomes of negative body image. In other words, there is very little prospective, longitudinal research. With this caveat in mind, this chapter focuses on the development of body image as it occurs in children age 11 and under. In the United States, these children are generally in elementary school. The emphasis here is on the sequence of development within gender and ethnic group as well as on potential biological and sociocultural influences.
Researchers have looked at both overall body image and specific measures of weight and shape concerns among children. The measures of overall body image, often referred to as "body esteem" or "appearance esteem," tend to include items concerning facial features, hair, and general appearance. A child could be dissatisfied with weight or shape and obtain a relatively high score on these measures. Other measures tend to focus more spe