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This qualitative study examined preadolescent boys’ and girls’ body ideals, and peer and media factors that shape these ideals. Sixty-eight children aged 8–10 participated in semi-structured interviews: 19 boys and 17 girls in individual interviews and 16 boys and 16 girls in eight group interviews. Techniques from grounded theory were used to analyze the data. Findings demonstrated that fitness was an important element of boys’ and girls’ body ideals. For boys the emphasis was on sport, and this was promoted by their peer interactions and the sportsmen they admired. For girls the focus was on looking good, and this was reinforced by their peer conversations, and the actresses and singers they admired. Focus groups further highlighted how peers both reinforced media messages, yet also helped children critique media messages. Implications are discussed for prevention programs that need to be specifically tailored for boys and girls.


Institute for Health and Ageing

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Journal Article

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