The narrow range of acceptable body types of preschoolers and their mothers

Dara R. Musher-Eizenman, Shayla C. Holub, Laura Edwards-Leeper, Anna V. Persson, Sara E. Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Similarities and differences in perceptions of ideal, aversive, and acceptable body shapes were investigated for both preschool children and their mothers. Also, the relationship of these attitudes to mothers' ideas about feeding their children was examined. Figure array ratings were obtained from 42 preschool children and 28 of their mothers for current, ideal, aversive, and acceptable body shapes. Mothers also completed the Child Feeding Questionnaire "Restriction" and "Pressure to eat" subscales. Children had a less restricted view of acceptable body shapes than did their mothers. Mothers who found fewer body shapes acceptable for their child reported using more restrictive feeding practices with their children. Although there is evidence that attitudes favoring a thin body shape begin in preschool, the children in the current study were not as restricted in this as were their mothers. The results highlight the challenges of conveying healthy ideas to children about weight while avoiding unrealistic ideals of thinness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-272
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2003


  • Body image
  • Body satisfaction
  • Body size
  • Feeding practices
  • Obesity
  • Preschool age
  • Social acceptance


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