Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


FSU study finds body image stereotypes may begin in the high chair


Parents of toddlers may be serving up stereotypes about body image that could contribute to eating disorders or behavioral problems later in life, according to a pair of new Florida State University studies.

Researchers found that parents of 3-year-olds worried that their sons but not their daughters were underweight - even though the weights and body mass index of the boys and girls in the study were nearly identical. They also said that their daughters ate enough food, but their sons did not.

The findings suggest that parents may be buying into gender stereotypes about appetite and body size even with children as young as 36 months old. The studies, co-authored by FSU’s Bright-Burton Professor of Psychology Thomas Joiner, graduate student Jill Holm-Denoma and post-doctoral student Ainhoa Otamendi, as well as colleagues from the Oregon Research Institute and Wesleyan University, were published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

"Parents are buying into the media ideal of thinness for girls and perceiving that their daughters may not be thin enough, even at this young age," Joiner said. "They also have stereotypes about male culture that boys should be big and strong and physical."

It’s what Joiner believes is part of parents’ increasing pursuit of perfect lives for their children. Parents want their children to have the right clothes, the right friends, the right activities and even the right body. The problem is that parents’ views on how their children should eat may affect their eating habits at very young ages, he said.

"While parents’ intentions are good, their worries about their children’s eating habits and body size are misplaced and not at all helpful," Joiner said. "The only time a parent should be concerned is if a young child is not eating at all or is under eating in a very noticeable way. With kids who overeat, restriction does not work. Instead, parents should offer them a variety of healthy foods to choose from and encourage exercise."

On the other hand, parents may be reluctant to admit their child has a weight problem. No mother or father in this study reported that their child was fat, despite the fact that approximately 20 percent of the girls and 18 percent of boys in this sample would be classified as overweight based on the body mass index data gathered from parents’ reports of their child’s height and weight. This finding calls into question parents’ ability to accurately describe their child’s body shape and size.

In a related study, the researchers looked at the most problematic eating behaviors of 36-month-old children- pickiness, food refusal and struggle for control - as well as positive parental behavior during feedings. While picky eating or refusal to eat specific foods is common behavior that most toddlers will outgrow, a struggle for control about food was linked to future problems.

"It’s a food-related signal of later conduct problems," Joiner said. "This struggle for control doesn’t seem to go away with age. It’s a rebellious personality trait that seems to predict trouble down the road."

In this study, toddlers with a higher body mass index were more likely to have conflicts with their mothers at mealtimes. The researchers theorized that mothers of heavy children might try to exert more control over the feeding situation than mothers of lean children. Again, the researchers found mothers have more of a struggle with girls than boys.

The most common problem among 36-month-old children is spitting out food during feedings (79 percent). They also are likely to become upset when they want something to eat and are told "no" (71 percent). Other common problems are throwing tantrums and accepting a certain food one day but rejecting it on another.

Both studies were based on assessments that 93 families (93 mothers, plus 54 fathers) in Oregon completed of their child at 36 months old. The researchers say more study of the eating and feeding behaviors of young children is needed.

"By studying children at this age, we might be able to get a handle on early characteristics that could be risk factors for bulimia or the more general issues of eating disorders and behavior problems," Joiner said. "The earlier you know about risk factors, the more likely you are to prevent problems."

Dr. Thomas Joiner | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>