Judgments of body size and attractiveness by Mexican-American mothers and daughters



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Previous research has revealed that adults and children have preferences and stereotypes concerning judgments of body size and attractiveness, but no data on parent and child judgments from the same family have been reported. This study was initiated to examine the relationship between parents' and childrens' judgments of attractiveness and the role of body size in these judgments. Mexican-American mothers who had participated in a diet intervention (N=19), and their 7- to 12-year old daughters, judged drawings of five girl figures, ranging from a very thin to an obese body size, for attractiveness. A control group of mothers who had not participated in a diet intervention (N=18), and their daughters, were also examined. The figure drawings were also used as stimuli to elicit responses concerning the subjects' perceived and ideal size of the daughter. In addition, self-concept measures were completed by all subjects. Mothers and daughters differed only in their ratings of the thin figure (mothers thought it less attractive than did the daughters), and both mothers and daughters showed a tendency to rank the larger figures as less attractive than the thin figures. The average relationship between body size and attractiveness did not differ between the diet intervention and the control groups. However, control group mothers were inconsistent in their rankings (Kendall W= .019), while the intervention mothers showed some consistency in their rankings (Kendall W=.17O, p <..01). Daughters wanted to be thinner than they perceived themselves to be. The mothers thought their daughters' size was "just right"--their perceived did not differ from their ideal. Daughters' overall self-concept was negatively related to their age, and their own and their mothers' body size. Older children with larger body sizes, whose mothers also had large body sizes, had lower levels of self-esteem. Mothers' self-esteem was not predicted by their body size in regression analyses. However, the control group mothers' self-concept was negatively correlated with their body size. Mothers with the higher body mass indices had the lower levels of self- esteem. For these daughters, and for one group of mothers, body size was a salient aspect of their feelings of self-worth.



Obesity, Psychological aspects, Obesity in children, Women, Mexican Americans, Children