Children as young as eight have body image issues
Children as young as EIGHT have body image issues: Youngsters become self-conscious when their hormone levels rise in preparation for puberty
- High hormones levels often cause children to be taller and heavier
- This may make youngsters feel conspicuous and therefore self conscious
- Results suggest children with a high BMI are more at risk of body dissatisfaction
- Some 30 million in the US and over one million in the UK have an eating disorder
Children as young as eight have body image issues, new research suggests.
Youngsters become self-conscious of their appearances when their hormone levels rise in preparation for puberty, a study found.
Lead author Dr Elizabeth Hughes, from the University of Melbourne, said: ‘What we have learnt is that pre-pubescent children, as young as eight and nine, are vulnerable to poor body image and the dissatisfaction does appear to be linked to hormone levels associated with the onset of puberty.
‘Basically the higher the level of hormones, the more unhappy the children were with their body size; however children with heightened levels of hormones also tend to be taller and heavier than their peers, and this could be the cause of their poor body image.’
Around 30 million people in the US and more than one million in the UK suffer from an eating disorder, which usually begin during adolescence.
Children as young as eight have body image issues, new research suggests (stock)
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How the research was carried out
The researchers analysed sex hormone levels in 516 boys and 621 girls aged between eight and nine years old.
The youngsters were shown eight illustrated silhouettes of children that ranged from very thin to very obese.
They were asked to choose the silhouette they felt they most looked like, known as the self rating, and then the image they wished to look like; the ideal rating.
All of the silhouettes were numbered. By subtracting the ideal rating from the self rating score, the children were allocated either a positive or a negative body satisfaction rating.
WHO IS MOST AT RISK OF DEVELOPING EATING DISORDERS?
Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at Beat, says eating disorders can affect anyone, ‘age, gender, or background’, but especially teenagers.
‘Around 1.25 million people are estimated to have eating disorders in the UK. Eating disorders are severe mental illnesses which can be triggered by a variety of factors such as genetic, psychological, environmental, social and biological influences.
‘Eating disorders do not just affect young women and studies show that up to 25% of those suffering with eating disorders are male.
‘We know that eating disorders can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or background, but, as the NICE guidelines suggest, the risk is highest for young men and women between 13 and 17 years of age.
‘The fact that we are seeing parents and families spotting signs of an eating disorders early is positive. Full recovery from an eating disorder is possible and the sooner someone gets the treatment they need, the more likely they are to make a full and sustained recovery.
‘Any increase or decrease in the number of children and young people accessing any form of treatment is often reported as evidence that ‘eating disorders are on the rise’, when actually it could be due to greater awareness and help-seeking, improved identification and/or a change in the number of services and beds available.
‘However, no matter what their age or gender, every person concerned about their well being should have their concerns acknowledged respectfully, and be able to find necessary treatment without delay.
‘Children who are more physically mature may feel more conspicuous’
Results suggest higher sex hormone levels are significantly associated with lower body satisfaction in both boys and girls.
Youngsters with a high BMI are particularly more likely to be self conscious.
Dr Hughes said: ‘It may be that children who are taller, heavier and more physically mature, feel more conspicuous amongst their peers.’
The researchers believe their findings demonstrate the need for community and school programmes that encourage strong self esteem in young people by stressing confidence should not be solely based on one’s appearance.
The results were published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
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