Can Children Develop a Concept of Weight Issues by Four?

SWe assume that children learn about the issues associated with weight at an earlier age, but a new study suggests that children as young as four have already learned to dislike fat people. In a study involving 126 boys and girls who had just started school, researchers found that they had already grown to loathe the thought of an overweight story book character becoming a potential friend. However, it was noted that they had no difficulty in befriending the character if he was of a normal weight or had a disability. In fact, only one of the 43 children questioned said that they would choose the character as a pal. Researchers at the Leeds University said that very young children have already picked up on society’s prejudice against overweight people.

The research promotes the theory that young children are far more aware about societal interest in body size and image than we first thought, showing that at just school entry level age, children have learned to understand the negativity that surrounds weight. Although this negativity was shared when the character was disabled, it was to a far smaller extent – the children objected to the overweight character regardless of it’s gender, showing that the weight was the primary issue. Society’s obsession with body has permeated the advertising world and the media, but it seems that children as young as four are now obsessed with weight and size, to a point where it is impacted the relationships they have with other people.

From TV shows to the opinions of their parents, children are picking up on this prejudice, developing a new generation of people more aware of weight than ever before. The underlying social commentary we have about weight and morals is clearly prominent, showing that this stigma we have surrounding people who are overweight is significant. It is reflected by reduced employment opportunities and various aspects of people’s lives, which is further promoted by the stereotypes we are seeing reflected by our children’s views.

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