Weight-Stigma and Body Satisfaction among Preschool Children

Author(s): Brigitte Jenull, Carlotta Mayer, Phil Knobel, Robert Birnbacher

Introduction: The worldwide obesity pandemic has far reaching consequences for the overweight individual. Overweight itself can lead to impaired physical health, the associated weight stigma to impaired mental health. As weight bias starts as early as in preschool age, it is important to find out what sociodemographic and psychosocial factors promote weight stigma in children and how to prevent them.

Methods: Within the DONUT-project 282 children between the age three to seven were interviewed about their preference of different sizes in playmates and the adjectives they attributed to normal and overweight figures. Answers have been correlated with the child’s weight, perceived and ideal body size, gender, and age.

Results: Weight stigma is evident throughout the sample, while older children tend to show a higher weight bias than younger children. Girls were found to display a stronger weight bias than boys. A higher children’s weight showed a positive correlation with association of negative adjectives to the overweight target figure. A lower perceived or ideal body size was associated with higher negative correlations towards overweight individuals. There was no body satisfaction effect on expressed weight stigma.

Discussion: Our findings provide further evidence about the relationship between different sociodemo-graphic and psychosocial constructs. This relationship is difficult and needs more research. The importance of our results for early prevention programs to reduce weight stigma in children and society is discussed.

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