Discrepancies in body image perception among fourth-grade public school children from urban, suburban, and rural Maryland

Claudette Welch, Susan M. Gross, Yvonne Bronner, Natalie Dewberry-Moore, David M. Paige

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective The objective of this study was to determine whether there is an association between body image perception and weight status as measured by the body mass index among a group of fourth graders in Maryland. Design Cross-sectional data on height, weight, and body image were collected in the classroom. At risk for being overweight and being overweight designations were assigned to participants with body mass index (BMI) percentile values for age and sex of ≥85 to <95 and BMI ≥95, respectively. Students selected a figure (range 1 to 7) to represent their current and ideal images. Subjects The subjects of this study were 524 fourth-grade public school students (54% girls; 61% white; mean age, 9.2 years) from three geographically distinct regions in Maryland (38.6% urban, 30.7% suburban, 30.7% rural). Statistical analyses χ2 tests were used to compare weight status with sex, race, geographic location, and body image discrepancy categories. One-way analysis of variance was used to compare BMI and body image scores with sex and race/ethnicity to geographic location. Results Thirteen percent of students were overweight, and 15% were at risk of overweight. There was no association between weight status and race, body image perception, or geographic location. African Americans chose larger figures than whites and other races to represent their current and ideal images and were most satisfied with their body size. Conclusions Perceptions of body image are formed early in life. Dietitians can provide guidance on appropriate weight and body size to children, parents, and school professionals. Dietitians can also use their influence to secure funding for nutrition education programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1080-1085
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Dietetic Association
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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