Girls Who Emulate Their Mothers Are Less Likely To Have Body Image Disorders

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
May/June 2001 Volume 12, Number 3
©2001 Gürze Books

Girls who imitate their mothers are less likely to have low self-esteem or eating disorders, regardless of the mother’s own body image. A team of researchers led by Dr. Jane Ellen Smith, a psychologist at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, found that if little girls said, “I want to be like my mom,” they had a better body image, fewer eating disorders, and better self-esteem than girls who did not want to be like their mothers (Int J Eat Disord, 2001: 29:429).

The researchers studied 92 mother-daughter pairs of 8- to 13-year-old Hispanic and white girls from public schools in New Mexico. All girls were within normal body weight ranges and were selected for either having an especially high or especially low body self-image. The girls were asked to rate their body image, their self-esteem, and their relationship with their mother.

Age affected body image satisfaction

Overall, girls who were relatively thinner were more satisfied with their body types than girls who were heavier, even though all the girls were within normal weight limits. Race did not affect body image, but age did. Older girls nearing puberty showed significantly more dissatisfaction with their bodies than did younger girls. Also, a mother’s dissatisfaction with her body and poor eating attitudes did not necessarily transfer to her daughter. Instead, the important factor was whether the girl wanted to be like her mother or not. Girls who identified with and tried to imitate their mother’s personality were less likely to have self-esteem and body image problems.

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