ANU Open Research Repository has been upgraded. We are still working out a few issues, and there may be periodic outages throughout the day. Please get in touch with if you experience any issues.

Children's perceived and ideal body images: Social marketing implications




Pettigrew, Simone
Pescud, Melanie
Donovan, Robert J

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Springer Verlag


This study investigated children's perceived and ideal body images according to the four weight categories of underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obese. The aim was to provide insight into how the issue of child obesity can be raised with families to promote healthier behaviours while minimising unintended negative outcomes. The sample comprised 355 low and medium SES children, aged seven to 10 years. Perceived overweight and obesity was low, supporting the contention that many children are unaware of their actual levels of adiposity. More than 70% of respondents aspired to an underweight body image and thus had unrealistic and inappropriate body shape preferences. This outcome highlights the danger of triggering eating disorders by increasing weight concerns when raising awareness of child obesity in social marketing campaigns. The study results suggest that parents rather than children should be the primary focus of communications relating to child obesity and, where children are targeted, an important objective should be to prevent the internalization of a thin ideal.



Body image, Body weight, Children, Intervention design, Parents



International Review on Public and Nonprofit Marketing


Journal article

Book Title

Entity type

Access Statement

License Rights



Restricted until