New research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) shows children are expressing dissatisfaction with their body size as early as 8-9 years old and the majority of 10-11 years old are trying to control their weight.
Executive Manager of AIFS' Longitudinal Study for Australian Children, Dr Ben Edwards said the research also showed the children who were dissatisfied with their body image were more likely to have poorer social and emotional wellbeing and physical health.
Dr Edwards said the research paper, Body image of primary school children looked at more than 4,000 Australian children aged 8-9 years old and again at age 10-11 to understand how children perceived their body size, what was the desired body size, whether children were controlling their weight and the impacts on their social, emotional and physical wellbeing.
Dr Edwards said the research found more than half of children aged between 8 to 11 years old desired a body size slightly thinner than the average but there was higher dissatisfaction among younger children.
"Our research shows that regardless of age or whether they were underweight, normal weight or overweight, at least two in five children desired a body size slightly thinner than the average body size," he said.
"Despite a desire for a thinner body, younger children (8-9 year olds) were less likely to report their body size accurately with most children underestimating their body size."
Dr Edwards said by the time children reached 10-11 years, they were much more accurate in gauging their correct body size and were more likely to be satisfied with their body image.
Research Fellow at AIFS, Dr Galina Daraganova said the research also found 61 per cent of boys and 56 per cent of girls (10-11 year olds) had tried to manage their weight over the last 12 months.
Dr Daraganova said the research also confirmed a strong relationship between social, emotional and physical wellbeing and children's happiness about their body size.
"The research found that children who were satisfied with their body image were more likely to have good social-emotional and physical health compared to those who were dissatisfied with their body size," she said.
The report from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children's 2013 Annual Statistical Report is available at this PS News link.
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