Exploring parents' attitudes and behaviors about their children's physical appearance



This survey study provides descriptive information regarding parents' evaluations of children's physical appearance, eating habits and exercise behaviors, and of parental efforts to influence their children's physical appearance. It further tests hypotheses of gender-related differences and age effects in parents' evaluations of their children. The study sample included 1,276 adult men and women who were selected from the participants of a body image survey. To be included, respondents had to be a parent of a child between the ages of 2 years and 16 years. A majority of respondents were found to be basically satisfied with their child's physical appearance, eating habits, and exercise behavior. However, increasingly less positive evaluations were reported with increasing age of the child. This shift in attitude was observed already among parents of grade schoolers. Few gender-related differences were found between male and female respondents, although women appeared to be more involved in influencing children's appearance. Analyses exploring differences concerning gender of the child found mixed results. Some questions resulted in gender-related differences consistent with the greater importance of beauty for women compared with men, yet our data also suggested that increasingly, men are included in our culture's mandate to value and pursue physical attractiveness.