Mother–Daughter Relationship Quality and Body Image in Preadolescent Girls

Jane Ellen Smith, Sarah J. Erickson, Julia L. Austin, Jaime L. Winn, Denise N. Lash, Paul C. Amrhein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Research suggests that mothers may play a role in girls’ body image development. The “interactive” hypothesis specifies that qualities of the mother–daughter relationship, as opposed to maternal modeling alone, predict daughter’s body image. We sought to understand how maternal relationship quality, from the perception of both daughters and mothers, was associated with preadolescent girls’ body image. The relationship between mother–daughter relationship quality and daughters’ body image was examined in 152 girls (ages 8–12) and their mothers. Mothers and daughters primarily identified as non-Hispanic white or Hispanic. Hierarchical linear regression analyses indicated that daughters’ perception of mother–daughter relationship quality was associated with daughters’ body esteem and body dissatisfaction, adding a small, but significant, amount of variance above the larger effect of child z-BMI and age. In contrast, maternal perception of mother–daughter relationship quality was not associated with any child body image measures. Young girls who perceived their relationships with their mothers more positively had healthier body images. Although effect sizes were relatively small and the cross-sectional design precludes conclusions regarding causality, these results support the “interactive” model of body image development whereby the characteristics of the mother–daughter relationship (as perceived by the daughter) are related to body image. Our findings support the notion that daughters’ perceptions of strong mother–daughter relationships are associated with healthy child body image, and fall in line with family-based prevention efforts that attempt to enhance parent–child relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2683-2694
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2016


  • Body dissatisfaction
  • Body image
  • Hispanic
  • Mother–daughter relationship
  • Preadolescent


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