Body Image in Toddlers & Young Kids

Parents may be fostering stereotypes of male and female body images among their toddlers, according to a Florida State University study. Parental worry about a child’s weight and eating habits could lead to eating disorders later in life, the researchers suggest.

In the study, parents of three-year-old boys thought that their sons were underweight and not eating enough, but parents of three-year-old girls thought their daughters were doing okay, even when the kids weighed the same. This suggests that starting very early, parents were perpetuating stereotypes that girls should be thin and boys should be big and strong.

The study also revealed that parents do not seem able to accurately gauge their children’s size. No parent described their child as fat or overweight, even though researchers calculated that 20 percent of the girls and 18 percent of the boys were so, based on parental reports of the toddlers’ height and weight.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 24 Aug 2010

Last Modified: 06 Nov 2014