Objective: To examine the prevalence of overweight concerns and body dissatisfaction among third-grade girls and boys and the influences of ethnicity and socioeconomic status (SES).
Study Design: Nine hundred sixty-nine children (mean age, 8.5 years) attending 13 northern California public elementary schools completed assessments of overweight concerns, body dissatisfaction, and desired shape, height, and weight.
Results: The sample was 44% white, 21% Latino, 19% non-Filipino Asian American, 8% Filipino, and 5% African American. Twenty-six percent of boys and 35% of girls reported wanting to lose weight, and 17% of boys and 24% of girls reported dieting to lose weight. Among girls, Latinas and African Americans reported significantly more overweight concerns than Asian Americans and Filipinas, and Latinas reported significantly more overweight concerns than whites. White and Latina girls also reported greater body dissatisfaction than Asian American girls. Some differences persisted even after controlling for actual body fatness. Higher SES African American girls reported significantly more overweight concerns than lower SES African American girls, but higher SES white girls reported less overweight concerns than lower SES white girls.
Conclusion: Overweight concerns and body dissatisfaction are highly prevalent among third-grade girls and boys, across ethnicity and SES. Young Latina and African American girls manifest equivalent or higher levels of disordered eating attitudes and behaviors as white and Asian American girls.