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What Factors Affect Body Image in Children?

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  • Written By: Patti Kate
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2016
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Body image in children may be influenced by several factors, including positive or negative reinforcement by parents. Obesity or physical disabilities may contribute to poor body image in children. Conversely, teachers and guidance counselors may reinforce good body image in children.

A parent's example may have a direct influence on a child's body image. A parent who emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy weight and good physical hygiene, can help a child attain a good self image. Educating a child on the importance of maintaining a healthy body can also have a direct impact on her self image.

If, however, a parent places too much importance on weight and appearance, this could influence a child negatively. Positive body image in children can be compromised by placing too much emphasis on the importance of being "skinny." A child might feel inferior due to negative comments from parents, siblings, friends, and peers.

Magazines that depict teenage models as having the "perfect body" can influence a child's body image. If a magazine article stresses the importance of achieving a model's figure, some children may believe they have to look like a model to be accepted. In essence, society plays a major role in developing body image in children.

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Children's books can have a positive effect on self esteem and self image. Books that are written from a sensitive viewpoint can positively influence body image in children. When children learn to embrace diversity, body image issues may diminish. Parents and teachers who help children choose appropriate reading material can help improve their self image.

Some individuals can develop poor body image during puberty. Physical changes and peer pressure can influence a teenager's self image. Feelings of isolation and rejection may also play a role in how a child perceives herself.

Children who are ostracized by peers for looking different in terms of body weight or physical impairment may develop poor self esteem and body image. Body image in children with physical disabilities may be influenced by how others perceive them. Cruel comments and taunts by other children can negatively influence a child's self image.

Experts believe that positive body image in children can be achieved through acceptance. When others accept and love the child for who she is, body image problems may be avoided. Helping a child recognize her positive attributes rather than criticizing the imperfections, can influence body image in a positive way.

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