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Keywords:

  • girls;
  • childhood;
  • weight concerns;
  • body dissatisfaction;
  • weight status;
  • overweight;
  • dietary restraint;
  • dieting

Abstract

Objective

To examine the development of girls' weight concerns and body dissatisfaction from ages 5 to 9 years and how change and continuity in these constructs from age 5 to 7 years is associated with girls' eating attitudes, dietary restraint, and dieting status at age 9.

Methods

Weight concerns, body dissatisfaction, and weight status were assessed for 182 girls when they were 5, 7, and 9 years old, and their eating attitudes, dietary restraint, and dieting status were assessed when they were 9.

Results

Girls tended to maintain their rank in weight concerns and body dissatisfaction across ages 5 to 9 years, and associations among girls' weight concerns, body dissatisfaction, and weight status increased with age. In addition, positive associations were found between changes in girls' weight concerns, body dissatisfaction, and weight status across ages 7 to 9. Finally, girls' who reported high weight concerns or high body dissatisfaction across ages 5 to 7 reported higher dietary restraint, more maladaptive eating attitudes, and a greater likelihood of dieting at age 9, independent of their weight status.

Conclusion

Girls' reported weight concerns and body dissatisfaction across middle childhood showed consistency over time, were systematically related to their weight status, and predicted their dietary restraint, eating attitudes, and the likelihood of dieting at age 9. These results reflect patterns identified among adolescent girls and women. © 2003 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 33: 320–332, 2003.