Body Image Worries Begin Age Five, Research Finds

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Featured in the Courier Mail

Body image worries begin at preschool and Australian children are being admitted to hospital for full-blown eating disorders as young as seven.

Pressure to have society’s “perfect 10” body is weighing on five year olds, with research from La Trobe University showing some think they are too fat, while others believe they are too skinny.

The Children’s Body Image Development Study reveals 34 per cent of five-year-old girls reported that “dietary restraint” and 27.9 per cent of boys were unhappy with their size — 14.9 percent of them felt they were too skinny.

“It is dificult to tell how intesely young children feel these concerns,” research professor Susan Paxton said.

The kids have a perceived idea of the ideal body, thanks to unrealistic images in story books, television and cartoons.

The National Eating Disorders support line has received calls from children under 10.

A new shock international childcare report suggests the problem may begin even earlier, with three year olds reporting weight concerns.

The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years highlights that tots feel “fat and ugly”.

“Our children are increasingly aware of dieting and food-restrictive practices,” said Christine Morgan, chief exeutive of eating disorders support group, Butterfly Foundation. “It’s not difficult for a young person to learn that they are valued by our community if they are thin, athletic, muscular — they quickly associate this with successful, beautiful and popular.

“This is a currupted view of health and is making our children sick.”

The Australian research shows parents play a big role in nurturing a positive body image in their kids.

Director of Amaze Early Education Centres Lucy Cook said that her staff work hard to ensure kids feel good about themselves.