Perceptions of Weight and Body Image Among Preschool Children: A Pilot Study
Jacqulyn N. Burgess, Marion E. Broome
Obesity has become a significant problem in children younger than 5 years of age. The purpose of this pilot study was to examine the perceptions of preschool children about the body size of children who are overweight and those who are of normal weight. Seventeen children between 4 and 5 years of age were recruited from seven daycare programs. Each was interviewed using pictorial images representative of various body shapes and sizes, was weighed, and had his or her height measured to calculate actual Body Mass Index (BMI). Children were asked to indicate which image most closely reflected their beliefs about overweight and healthy children. Findings indicate that preschool children are able to correctly identify which body shapes depict someone who is overweight. A few children identified the body shape that accurately estimates their own BMI; yet, all reported "yes" when asked if they like the way they look. Using pictures of body shapes as well as various food items can be used with preschool children to develop prevention and intervention strategies that target overweight and obesity.