How parental messages regarding body image and eating affect girls’ feelings about their own bodies.

This summer, I am working through the Center for Eating Behavior and Child Development to examine behaviors in childhood that may be important targets for preventative measures against disordered eating. The study was developed as my senior honors project, and I hope to defend the study in December.

We will be assessing the degree to which girls ages 4 to 10 approach and avoid healthy or unhealthy foods during an experimental computer task. Studies show that people who approach foods have healthier eating habits than those who use avoidance techniques. An approach technique would involve thoughts such as “I will eat more fruits and vegetables,” whereas someone with avoidance tendencies would be more likely to think “I will not eat any candy or cookies.” The parents will be asked to fill out some surveys online, at home, and then one of the parents will bring the child to the lab for about an hour.

By examining the associations between the reactions of the girls to different foods and messages provided by girls’ parents, we hope to better understand some developmental outcomes related to health in girls. I became interested in this topic because I have known multiple people who were affected by it, and I have seen first hand how important understanding health issues can be for young girls. I have almost completed the preparatory work for this study (which I will discuss in a later post!), and I cannot wait to begin to work with the children and their families!