Cross-cultural differences in maternal evaluation of children's body shapes




This study investigated cultural variation in mothers' attitudes to children's body shape. Method: One hundred thirty-one mothers from five cultural groups attending a pediatric clinic were approached, and data obtained from 114. Background information was obtained, including weight and height for themselves and their children. Mothers completed the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26) and rated drawings of children for attractiveness and health, using Likert scales, scored 1–7. Results: Mothers from the different cultural groups had similar body mass index (BMI) and EAT scores, and their children had similar average body weight. However, UK mothers found slimmer girls attractive compared to mothers from South Asia, the Mediterranean or the Caribbean regions, and sub-Saharan Africa (p < .05). The differences occurred within the mid-range (median scores for all ethnic groups 4–5). South Asian mothers presented to the pediatric clinic with more worries about their children not gaining weight and growing (p < .01). Discussion: These findings have implications for understanding cultural variation in the acquisition of attitudes to body shape, and these attitudes influence medical help seeking. © 1996 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.