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Assessing children's body shape and weight concern

By Caroline J. Harris


Shape and weight over-concern and self-evaluation almost exclusively in these terms is a core feature of eating disorder psychopathology and it is this which is thought to drive weight control behaviours. The literature indicates concerns about weight and shape can be present in children at least as young as eight rears of age. Currently, there is no tool available which measures a child's over-concern\ud with their body shape and weight per se. This study developed an assessment of children's body shape and weight over-concern, using scales measuring shape and weight concern and perceived importance of shape and weight. The properties of the new shape and weight over-concern assessment were examined in relation to children's self-perception and implicit attitudes towards overweight.\ud \ud Participants were 333 Year 5 children (181 boys and 152 girls) from North Yorkshire primary schools, with a mean age of 9 years 7 months. They completed measures of body shape perception, dietary restraint, height and weight accuracy, self-esteem and body shape and weight over-concern. In addition they completed a timed implicit association task which assessed implicit attitudes towards overweight.\ud \ud The new assessment was concluded to have good psychometric properties and to be a reasonable assessment of shape and weight over-concern in children. Children with high shape and weight concern tended to be heavier, less satisfied\ud with their weight and body shape, have lower self-esteem and report increased levels of dietary restraint. High levels of perceived importance of shape and weight also\ud impacted on this latter variable. A general anti-fat bias was indicated from this group of children. Dietary restraint score was a significant predictor of shape and\ud weight over-concern, as was global self-worth (for the boys) and physical appearance (for the girls). No gender differences were found in the assessment of shape and weight over-concern.\ud \ud This study is the first to measure shape and weight over-concern in children and highlights a need of continued research of over-concern in children and adults.\ud This will continue to inform intervention and prevention programmes of eating disorders. Further research into the implicit anti-fat attitudes in children as young as\ud 9 years is also indicated, especially in respect of shape and weight over-concern

Publisher: School of Medicine (Leeds)
Year: 2002
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.whiterose.ac.uk:232

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