Wednesday, February 18th, 2015
It’s well known that many Americans, especially women, dislike their bodies. Much of the blame for this problem is placed on the media for airbrushing models and celebrities into unrealistic, typically unattainable beauties — and on society for glorifying these retouched versions of people.
We usually assume that the battle with negative self-image begins when adolescents hit puberty, but a new report from Common Sense Media suggests that these issues are beginning even earlier than that. Although the report is not comprehensive, information was compiled from numerous body image studies to determine what influences a child’s attitudes and behaviors, and at what age.
Researchers discovered that children begin to express concerns about their bodies as young as age 5. And at this young age, parents usually play a role in influencing their kids — as Common Sense Media notes, “you are your child’s first teacher,” meaning that kids can still pick up on subtle but negative body image message you give (even if you’re not harshly criticizing your body).
Even though body image research is often focused on girls, boys are influenced, too. According to the report, one-third of boys (and more than half of girls) between the ages of 6 and 8 believe an ideal body is thinner than their current body size. And 1 in 4 kids have already tried dieting by age 7. And get this—while a Barbie-like physique is knowingly unattainable, the measurements of male action figures surpass the measurements of even the largest bodybuilders!
To counteract the negative body image, Common Sense suggests that you talk openly about appreciating your body, steer clear of commenting on others’ appearances, and participate in healthy habits for your well-being (and not just to look better in the dress you’re wearing soon!).
“A lot of the negative body image comes from internal views of oneself, and when you can really shift that conversation from how someone looks to how someone feels, then kids can really start to think about what their choices are, and how they have control over how they feel, and that brings positive self-esteem and self-awareness,” says Seeta Pai, vice president of research for Common Sense Media and author of the report.
Also: Read these tips on how to talk to your kids about body image.
Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn
Image: Girl looking in mirror via Shutterstock
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Monday, November 25th, 2013
A new study has found that despite all appearances, babies are actually born with an awareness of their own bodies. More from LiveScience:
Body awareness is an important skill for distinguishing the self from others, and failure to develop body awareness may be a component of some disorders such as autism. But little research has been done to find out when humans start to understand that their body is their own.
To determine babies’ awareness of their bodies, the researchers took a page from studies on adults. In a famous illusion, people can be convinced that a rubber hand is their own if they see the hand stroked while their own hand, hidden from view, is simultaneously stroked.
These studies show that information from multiple senses — vision and touch, in this case — are important for body awareness, said Maria Laura Filippetti, a doctoral student at the Center for Brain and Cognitive Development at the University of London.
To find out if the same is true of babies, Filippetti and her colleagues tested 40 newborns who were between 12 hours and 4 days old. The babies sat on the experimenter’s lap in front of a screen. On-screen, a video showed a baby’s face being stroked by a paintbrush. The researcher either stroked the baby’s face with a brush in tandem with the stroking shown on the screen, or delayed the stroking by five seconds.
Next, the babies saw the same video but flipped upside down. Again, the researcher stroked the infants’ faces in tandem with the upside-down image or delayed the stroking by three seconds.
Working with babies so young is a challenge, Filippetti told LiveScience.
“It is challenging just in terms of the time you actually have when the baby is fully awake and responsive,” she said.
To determine whether the babies were associating the facial stroking they saw on-screen with their own bodies, as in the rubber-hand illusion, the researchers measured how long the babies looked at the screen in each condition. Looking time is the standard measurement used in infant research, because babies can’t answer questions or verbally indicate their interest.
The researchers found that babies looked the longest at the screen when the stroking matched what they felt on their own faces. This was true only of the right-side-up images; infants didn’t seem to associate the flipped faces with their own.
The findings suggest that babies are born with the basic mechanisms they need to build body awareness, Filippetti and her colleagues reported Thursday in the journal Current Biology.
Track your baby’s milestones with our free tracker, or shop for great baby toys.
Image: Newborn baby, via Shutterstock
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