One of the first things that my husband said to me when we found out we were expecting a baby girl was that we needed to make sure she had a positive view of herself. Having grown up with two sisters (and watched me struggle with negative body issues) he was all too familiar with the ways in which our self doubt could affect us.
But new research suggests that it’s actually our sons we should be more concerned about when it comes to body image.
New information, which was shared at the 124th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, showed that over the course of the last thirty years, it seems that women have been getting more positive about their weight but the boys are increasingly reporting concerns about not being ‘buff’ enough or not having what they deem to be an enviable male figure.
Bryan Karazsia, a professor at the College of Wooster, explains, “While women consistently report being more dissatisfied with their bodies than men, as far as thinness is concerned, that dissatisfaction has decreased over the 31-year period we studied.”
Using data from over 250 individual studies, the researchers collated information on over 100,000 men and women. Focusing on the years 1981-2012, participants were asked questions relating to how they felt about their “fat”.
Interestingly it was noted that women's overall dissatisfaction with their bodies was declining when it came to their weight. While they still expressed some concerns about their bodies, the focus on weight was not as important as it once seemed to be.
However it was the men who showed a significant change in their self esteem. While the guys were not focused as much on weight, or fat as it is referred to in the study notes, they did express concerns about their muscle mass and overall tone.
Additional studies into the area of body image back up this finding that boys are becoming increasingly concerned with their muscle mass.
A recent survey conducted in the U.K., asked a pool of over 1000 boys how they felt about their bodies. The findings were shocking with eight out of ten respondents noting that they were 'plagued by unhealthy body images'.
Even more disturbing was the finding that more than half felt they were affected by eating disorders.
The information is supported by the National Eating Disorders Foundation in America which says that over one third of teenaged boys use unhealthy weight control behaviours to achieve their goal physique. These include skipping meals. smoking to suppress appetite and vomiting or taking laxatives.
Over the last decades there has been a lot of work done to increase girls body image but despite this we are still bombarded with unrealistic photo shopped images of models and celebrities.
It's a constant battle for any parent looking to build self confidence in their child. It is apparent though that it's no longer just parents of girls who need to be on top of body confidence when it comes to raising children.