Objective.

This study examined the relationship between weight status and self-concept in a sample of preschool-aged girls and whether parental concern about child overweight or restriction of access to food are associated with negative self-evaluations among girls.

Method.

Participants were 197 5-year-old girls and their parents. Girls' weight status (weight for height percentile) was calculated based on height and weight measurements. Girls' self-concept was assessed using an individually administered questionnaire. Parents' concern about their child's weight status and restriction of their child's access to food were assessed using a self-report questionnaire.

Results.

Girls with higher weight status reported lower body esteem and lower perceived cognitive ability than did girls with lower weight status. Independent of girl's weight status, higher paternal concern about child overweight was associated with lower perceived physical ability among girls; higher maternal concern about child overweight was associated with lower perceived physical and cognitive ability among girls. Finally, higher maternal restriction of girls' access to foods was associated with lower perceived physical and cognitive ability among girls with higher weight status but not among girls with lower weight status.

Conclusions.

At least as early as age 5 years, lower self-concept is noted among girls with higher weight status. In addition, parents' concern about their child's weight status and restriction of access to food are associated with negative self-evaluations among girls. Public health programs that raise parental awareness of childhood overweight without also providing constructive and blame-free alternatives for addressing child weight problems may be detrimental to children's mental health.

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