Body figure perceptions and eating attitudes among Australian schoolchildren aged 8 to 12 years




How widespread is the desire for thinness among preadolescent Australian children and are there gender differences? Method: Two hundred forty-four children from Grades 3 to 6 completed the children's version of the Eating Attitudes Test (ChEAT), reported whether they had ever wanted to be thinner or tried to lose weight, and selected pictures ranging from thin to fat to depict their current and ideal body images. Results: Fifty percent of girls and 33% of boys have wanted to be thinner, and 40% and 24%, respectively, have attempted to lose weight. Percentages of girls and boys scoring above the ChEAT screening threshold for anorexia risk were 14% and 8%, respectively. ChEAT scores, attitudes and behaviors, and current and ideal figure perceptions were significantly related to body mass index (BMI). Discussion: Attitudes and behaviors were consistent with recent U.S. and Israeli findings that concerns about being overweight are prevalent among 8- to 12-year-olds. High ChEAT scores among Grade 3 children raised the question of whether very young children adequately understand this questionnaire. © 1997 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 21: 273–278, 1997.