Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulemia are serious illnesses that affect millions of adolescents and young adults in this country. While much attention has been focused on these disorders, less has been said about how its seeds may be sown in the preteen years. Surveys have shown that the more kids are exposed to mass media, the greater their concern about their weight. Late childhood and early adolescence are particularly vulnerable times in the human life cycle, where the self-consciousness bourne of an emerging new identity creates a kind of obsession with “looking good” to other people, especially to friends.
Tweens, especially females, take their cues from their peers and mass media in terms of their clothes, accessories, and most importantly their figures. Fifty-seven percent of children above the age of eight have a television in their room. Exposed to svelt models, glamorous movie stars, and elegant cosmetic queens, preadolescent girls begin to see this as the standard to which they must attain. As one mother put it, speaking about preadolescent peer culture in Sarasota, Florida: “It’s a world where taunts of ‘fatty’ follow the chubby 10-year-old onto school buses, and even slender 12-year-olds try to live on Diet Coke and salads because they’re desperate to look like Jennifer Aniston.”
For more on the developmental issues surrounding early adolescence, see my book The Human Odyssey: Navigating the Twelve Stages of Life
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