Body Dissatisfaction and Its Correlates in 5- to 7-Year-Old Girls: A Social Learning Experiment

Marisol Perez La Mar, Ashley M. Kroon Van Diest, Haylie Smith, Michael R. Sladek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


There is limited research on cognitive risk factors for eating disorders among young girls despite accumulating evidence that body dissatisfaction and thin-ideal internalization can begin to occur between 3 and 5 years of age. To improve upon the existing literature and significantly contribute to the prevention and intervention literature, the current study examined body dissatisfaction, thin-ideal internalization, and self-objectification in girls between 5 and 7 years of age. The sample consisted of 151 mother–daughter dyads with 63 five-year-olds, 39 six-year-olds, and 49 seven-year-olds. Girls were interviewed about their body dissatisfaction, thin-ideal, and self-objectification. In addition, all mothers and daughters participated in an individual and joint mirror experiment. Levels of body dissatisfaction were consistent across 5- to 7-year-olds. Thin-ideal internalization was higher among 5-year-olds than 6- and 7-year-olds. In contrast, self-objectification was higher among 6- and 7-year-olds than 5-year-old girls. Mother’s body dissatisfaction significantly and positively predicted daughter’s body dissatisfaction during the joint mirror experiment. Similarly, mother’s body satisfaction significantly and positively predicted daughter’s body satisfaction. Results from this study suggest that girls model their mothers’ self-body talk. In addition, girls will change their positive or negative body responses after being exposed to their mothers’ response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)757-769
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 3 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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