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Keywords:

  • body image;
  • maternal identification;
  • eating attitudes

Abstract

Objective

The role of maternal identification in the development of girls' body image, eating attitudes, and self-esteem was examined.

Method

Hispanic and Anglo girls (n = 410) ages 8–13 were surveyed using the Body Esteem Scale (BES), the Children's Eating Attitudes Test, the Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale, and the Child Figure Drawing task. From this sample, normal-weight girls with high or low scores on the BES were selected for the main study. Ninety-two mother-daughter pairs participated in this second phase in which mothers completed similar questionnaires and girls performed a Q-sort task measuring maternal identification.

Results

Maternal identification was positively correlated with girls' self-esteem and negatively correlated with eating problems and body dissatisfaction. Also, mothers with high self-esteem tended to have daughters with high self-esteem. The mothers of girls with low BES scores found a significantly greater discrepancy than the mothers of girls with high BES scores when contrasting their daughters' current shape with either the ideal figure for their daughter or the figure they believed boys would find attractive.

Discussion

Girls who aspired to be like their mothers in terms of personality traits felt better about themselves and their bodies compared with girls with low maternal identification. © 2001 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 29: 429–440, 2001.