Children's perceived and ideal body images: Social marketing implications

Simone Pettigrew, Melanie Pescud, Robert J Donovan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    This study investigated children's perceived and ideal body images according to the four weight categories of underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obese. The aim was to provide insight into how the issue of child obesity can be raised with families to promote healthier behaviours while minimising unintended negative outcomes. The sample comprised 355 low and medium SES children, aged seven to 10 years. Perceived overweight and obesity was low, supporting the contention that many children are unaware of their actual levels of adiposity. More than 70% of respondents aspired to an underweight body image and thus had unrealistic and inappropriate body shape preferences. This outcome highlights the danger of triggering eating disorders by increasing weight concerns when raising awareness of child obesity in social marketing campaigns. The study results suggest that parents rather than children should be the primary focus of communications relating to child obesity and, where children are targeted, an important objective should be to prevent the internalization of a thin ideal.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)11-19
    JournalInternational Review on Public and Nonprofit Marketing
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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