A new study states that body shaming is behavior that children learn early. Toddlers as young as 32 months develop anti-fat perceptions from their mothers.
Scientists at the University of Otago (New Zealand's oldest university) showed photos of both obese and thin people to children, and a group of infants paid attention on bigger bodies. But kids 11 months and older were more attracted to thin bodies.
‘Scientists in New Zealand say that children learn body shaming lessons from their mothers. Toddlers as young as 32 months develop anti-fat perceptions from their mothers.’
The parents of the kids in the study completed a questionnaire to determine their perception towards obesity. The toddlers of parents with firm anti-fat attitudes tended to like the thinner bodies.
The analysis found that preference was strongly related to maternal anti-fat prejudice. Researchers stated that more the mother had shown anti-fat behaviors, the more the older toddlers would look away from the overweight figure towards the normal weight one.
"Weight-based prejudice is causing significant social, psychological, and physical harms to those stigmatised," said co-author Kerry O'Brien, an assistant professor of psychology at Monash University.
"It's driving body dissatisfaction and eating disorders in underweight populations; and social isolation, avoidance of exercise settings, and depression in very overweight populations," O'Brien added. "We need to find ways to address this prejudice."
The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.