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Intergenerational Perceptions of Body Image in Hispanics: Role of BMI, Gender, and Acculturation


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Objective: To assess role of BMI, gender, and acculturation on maternal and children's perception of body size, body ideal, and attractiveness.

Research Methods and Procedures: Eighty mothers and their 6- to- 12-year-old children (41 boys, 39 girls) participated. Maternal and children's perceptions of body size (actual and ideal) and attractiveness were assessed through a pictorial instrument. Mother and child height and weight, demographic, and acculturation characteristics were also assessed.

Results: Seventy-nine percent of the mothers were overweight, and 32% of the boys and 34% of the girls were overweight or at-risk for overweight. BMI influenced the children's selection of perceived ideal size. Overweight or at-risk for overweight children were more likely to select thinner figures as the ideal size than non-overweight children. Gender and acculturation differences concerning children's perceptions of body size and attractiveness were also found. Girls perceived the obese figure as being less attractive than did the boys. More acculturated children were likely to select thinner figures as more attractive than their less acculturated counterparts. Maternal acculturation was associated positively with the girls’ choice of thinner figures as an ideal body size, but not with the boys. Mothers viewed their daughters’ actual body size and BMI as ideal, although 34% of the girls were at-risk for overweight. Mothers perceived average body size figures as more attractive for their sons.

Discussion: Findings from this study provide empirical data about the role of BMI, gender, acculturation, and familial influences on children's perceptions of actual and ideal body sizes and attractiveness.