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Monday, August 17, 1998 Published at 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK


10-year-old girls obsessed by body image

Young girls blame their problems on their bodies

Girls as young as ten-years-old think their unattractive bodies are to blame if they are teased or bullied by their peers, research indicates.

Scientists are concerned that the girls are becoming obsessed with body image at an ever earlier age.

They found that dissatisfaction over body image was unrelated to actual weight or to pubertal development.

US researchers from the Stanford Center on Adolescence studied concerns among 157 girls aged 10 to 13 years.

Youngsters who were physically abused by peers, or who felt socially isolated or neglected had a lower opinion of their own phyiscal attractiveness.

Those girls who were popular socially had a much higher level of satisfaction with their own bodies.

'What's wrong with me?'

Researcher Dr. Kris Gowen said: "Ten to thirteen-year-old girls who are picked on may question what is wrong with themselves, and accordingly they tend to believe that if they were prettier or skinnier, their peers would not tease them."

Studies have shown that social victimisation is related to loneliness, depression, social anxiety, and social avoidance among boys and girls, and teasing has been shown to cause anger and sadness.

Media hype

[ image: the media plays a crucial role]
the media plays a crucial role
Peter Wilson, director of the mental health charity Young Minds, said children were becoming preoccupied with their body image several years younger than in the past.

He said part of the reason was that youngsters were reaching puberty slightly earlier, but he said the major factor was exposure to a media obsessed with image.

Mr Wilson, a child psychotherapist, said: "The penetration of media hype into young minds is very, very forceful, and all children are exposed to this - there is a pressure to grow up.

"The majority of children will weather this problem, by I am concerned by the 10-15% who might become overwhelmed."

Mr Wilson said it was vital that parents gave their children an inner confidence by making them feel good about themselves.

But he said schools should also set time aside to teach children about the changes going on in their bodies, so that they were equipped to deal with outside pressures.

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