Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Young children's understanding of weight change
Author: Baxter, Sarah Louise
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2013
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
The prevalence rates of childhood obesity are at an all-time high. Alongside this worldwide problem is the important issue of weight-related stereotypes. As well as growing up with these, children are also experiencing societal pressure to be ‘thin’, which is influencing many children’s desire to change their body shape and size. At a time when children are measured and weighed in schools and healthy living initiatives are common, this study aimed to engage young children in conversations about weight change. Specifically, children’s understanding of how weight loss and weight gain are achieved, and the potential motivations for and consequences of weight change, were explored. In addition, the study examined whether understanding differed between boys and girls. One hundred, four to six year-old school children (62 boys, 38 girls, mean age five years and two months) were individually interviewed. Each child was read a story in which the main character was either overweight or of average weight. Subsequently, this character was shown as either having lost or gained weight. Children were then asked a series of semi-structured questions. The interviews were transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis. Frequency counts of the children’s responses which helped generate each theme, yielded quantitative data. The results revealed that young children have an understanding of how food intake and exercise can influence weight change. Reasons given for why the fictional character may want to change weight included positive and negative motivations, such as, to increase or decrease negative reactions from others, to improve or worsen appearance, and to increase or decrease physical activities. The children offered positive and negative consequences to gaining/losing weight. The themes generated included; severe consequences, appearance, physical activity, increase/decrease in negative reactions from others and increase in health. The responses commonly focused on the avoidance of becoming/being overweight. Overall, few differences in understanding were observed between boys and girls. The findings indicate that children as young as four years-old have a clear understanding of the pressures faced by individuals to have a certain body shape, and the negative consequences which occur if they don’t. Therefore, health education surrounding these topics needs to occur at a very young age.
Supervisor: Hill, Andrew ; Collins, Sylvie Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available