Sociocultural Stereotypes as a Factor of Body Image Formation among Preschool Girls



Objective. We hypothesized that even short-term interaction with images that broadcast stereotypes of an unrealistically thin body may shift girls’ self-reference of body image to a thinner one. Background. Modern standards of body image, broadcast through the media, toys and other products for children, are unattainable for most people. Among such standards is the stereotype of an unrealistically thin body. Its presence makes girls perceive their bodies in a distorted manner and contributes to the formation of an extremely rigid self-ideal. Study design. The work experimentally assumes the influence of sociocultural stereotypes on the body image of preschool girls. The idea of H. Dittmar, E. Halliwell and S. Ive was used for the experiment. At the first stage, all children were examined using the "Silhouettes" technique. After 2 weeks, the girls of the experimental group were given coloring books with the image of Barbie. Girls in the control group were given neutral coloring pages with animals. After the children were coloring for 30 minutes, their body image was re-examined using the "Silhouettes" technique. Participants. Russian sample: 100 girls aged 5—6 years. All the children have a normal for their age body mass index. Measurements. Psychodiagnostic technique "Silhouettes". To compare distributions in independent samples, the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test was used, in dependent samples, the Kolmogorov test of agreement was used. Results. The results showed that a sample of Russian-speaking preschoolers, as well as their peers around the world, internalize unrealistic stereotypes of physicality by the age of 5—6. Conclusions. Interactions with images of an unrealistically thin body shift the distribution of choices for the "my body" and "ideal body" categories toward thinner images.

General Information

Keywords: body image, preschool age, sociocultural factors, preschool girls, thin ideal, the "Silhou¬ettes" technique, internalization, female.

Journal rubric: Empirical Research

Article type: scientific article


Funding. The reported study was funded by Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR), project number 20-013-00110.

Received: 26.08.2020


For citation: Belogai K.N., Borisenko Y.V., Bugrova N.A. Sociocultural Stereotypes as a Factor of Body Image Formation among Preschool Girls. Sotsial'naya psikhologiya i obshchestvo = Social Psychology and Society, 2022. Vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 194–208. DOI: 10.17759/sps.2022130213. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


  1. Agareva M.V. Vospitanie obraza telesnogo ya detei 5—7 let sredstvami muzykal’noi deyatel’nosti. Diss. kand. psikhol. nauk. [The upbringing of the image of the corporal self of children 5—7 years old by means of musical activity. PhD (Psychology) diss.]. Volgograd, 2012. 238 p. (In Russ.).
  2. Vygotskii L.S. Sobranie sochinenii: v 6 t. T. 6 [Collected Works: in 6 vol. Vol 6]. In M.G. Yaroshevskii (eds.). Moscow: Pedagogika, 1984. 400 p. (In Russ.).
  3. Kashekova I.E., Sevryukova N.V., Kononova E.A. Obraz narodnoi i sovremennoi igrushki v formirovanii kartiny mira u detei [The image of folk and modern toys in the formation of a picture of the world in children]. Pedagogika iskusstva. Pedagogika iskusstva = Art Pedagogy, 2018, no. 3, pp. 167—183. (In Russ.).
  4. Klochko V.E. Samoorganizatsiya v psikhologicheskikh sistemakh: problemy stanovleniya mental’nogo prostranstva lichnosti (vvedenie v transspektivnyi analiz): monografiya [Self-organization in psychological systems: problems of the formation of the mental space of the individual (introduction to trans-perspective analysis): monograph]. Tomsk: Tomskii gosudarstvennyi universitet, 2005. 174 p. (In Russ.).
  5. Kolomiichenko L., Prozumentik O. Dinamika i osobennosti polorolevoi sotsializatsii mal’chikov i devochek doshkol’nogo vozrasta [Dynamics and characteristics of gender-role socialization of boys and girls of preschool age]. Detskij sad ot A do YA = Kindergarten from A to Z, 2006, no. 1, pp. 12—25. (In Russ.).
  6. Kremer N.Sh. Teoriya veroyatnostei i matematicheskaya statistika [Theory of Probability and Mathematical Statistics]. Moscow: YUNITI-DANA, 2001. 365 p. (In Russ.).
  7. Mukhametzyanov I.Sh. Printsipy zdorov’eformiruyushchego obucheniya [Principles of regenerative learning]. Aktual’nye nauchnye issledovaniya v sovremennom mire = Сurrent scientific research in the modern world, 2018, no. 1—6(33), pp. 93—96. (In Russ.).
  8. Oleinikova E.E. Telesno-tsennostnoe fizicheskoe vospitanie detei starshego doshkol’nogo vozrasta na osnove refleksivno-metaforicheskoi dvigatel’noi igry. Diss. kand. psikhol. nauk. [Body-value physical education of older preschool children on the basis of reflexive-metaphorical motor games. PhD (Psychology) diss]. Stavropol’, 2007. 202 p. (In Russ.).
  9. Sidorenko E.V. Metody matematicheskoi obrabotki v psikhologii [Methods of mathematical processing in psychology]. Saint Petersburg: OOO «Rech’», 2000. 142 p. (In Russ.).
  10. Smirnova E.O., Sokolova M.V. Tendentsii razvitiya sovremennykh igrushek [Modern Toys: Developmental Tendencies]. Kul’turno-istoricheskaya psihologiya = Cultural historical psychology, 2019. Vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 99—104. DOI:10.17759/chp.2019150212 (In Russ.).
  11. Sokolova E.T. Ya-obraz tela [Body image]. In Raigorodskii D.YA. (eds.) Psihologiya samosoznaniya: hrestomatiya = Psychology of self-consciousness: an anthology. Samara: Bahrah-M, 2003, pp. 406—422. (In Russ.).
  12. Bronfenbrenner U., Evans G.W. Developmental science in the 21st century: Emerging questions, theoretical models, research designs, and empirical findings. Social Development, 2000. Vol. 9, pp. 115—125.
  13. Damiano S.R., Gregg K.J., Spiel E.C. Relationships between body size attitudes and body image of 4-year-old boys and girls, and attitudes of their fathers and mothers. Journal of Eating Disorders, 2015, no. 3, p. 16. DOI:10.1186/s40337-015-0048-0
  14. Damiano S.R., Yager Z., McLean S., Paxton S.J. Achieving body confidence for young children: Development and pilot study of a universal teacher-led body image and weight stigma program for early primary school children. Eating Disorders, 2018. Vol. 26:6, pp. 487—504. DOI:10.1080/10640 266.2018.1453630
  15. Davis D.S., Sbrocco T., Williams J. Understanding body image in African American and Caucasian first-graders: a partnership with the YMCA. Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action, 2009. Vol. 3(4), pp. 277—286.
  16. Dittmar H., Halliwell E., Ive S. Does Barbie make girls want to be thin? The effect of experimental exposure to images of dolls on the body image of 5- to 8-year-old girls. Developmental Psychology, 2006, no. 42(2), pp. 283—292.
  17. Goldberg S., Lewis M. Play behavior in the year-old infant: Early sex differences. Child Development, 1969, no. 40, pp. 21—31.
  18. Greenberg B.S., Eastin M., Hofschire L., Lachlan K., Brownell K.D. Portrayals of overweight individuals on commercial television. American Journal of Public Health, 2003, no. 93(8), pp. 1342—1348.
  19. Harriger J.A., Calogero R.M., Witherington D.C., Smith J.E. Body size stereotyping and internalisation of the thin ideal in pre-school girls. Sex Roles, 2010. Vol. 63, pp. 609—620. DOI:10.1007/s11199-010-9868-1
  20. Herbozo S., Tantleff-Dunn S., Gokee-Larose J., Thompson J.K. Beauty and thinness Messages in Children’s Media: a Content analysis. Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, 2004, no. 12(1), pp. 21—34.
  21. Hirshberg L.M., Svejda M. When infants look to their parents: I. Infants’ social referencing of mothers compared to fathers. Child Development, 1990, no. 61, pp. 1175—1186.
  22. Klein H., Shiffman K. Thin is “in” and stout is “out”: What animated cartoons tell viewers about body weight. Eating and Weight Disorders, 2005, no. 10(2), pp. 107—116.
  23. Kościcka K., Czepczor K., Brytek-Matera A. Body size attitudes and body image perception among preschool children and their parents: a preliminary study. Archives of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, 2016, no. 4, pp. 28—34. DOI:10.12740/APP/65192
  24. León M.-P., González-Martí I., Fernández-Bustos J.-G., Contreras O. Perception of body size and dissatisfaction in children aged 3 to 6: a systematic review. Anales De Psicología [ Annals of Psychology], 2017, no. 34(1), pp. 173—183. DOI:10.6018/analesps.34.1.275931
  25. Murnen S.K., Don B.P. Body image and gender roles. Encyklopedia of body image and human appearance. In T.F. Cash (Ed.). London, UK: Academic Press, 2012, pp. 128—134.
  26. Smith S.L., Choueti M., Prescott A., Pieper K. Gender roles and occupations: A look at character attributes and job-related aspirations in film and television. Los Angeles, 2013.
  27. Stice E., Schupak-Neuberg E., Shaw H.E., Stein R.I. Relation of media exposure to eating disorder symptomatology: An examination of mediating mechanisms. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1994, no. 103, pp. 836—840. DOI:10.1037/0021-843X.103.4.836
  28. Tylka T. Overview of the Field of Positive Body Image. Body Positive: Understanding and Improving Body Image in Science and Practice. E. Daniels, M. Gillen & C. Markey (Eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018, pp. 6—33. DOI:10.1017/9781108297653.002
  29. Vazquez-Arevalo R., Rodríguez N.A., López A.X. et al. Assessment of body image in preschoolers: Perception of parents and children. Revista Mexicana de Trastornos Alimentarios, 2018, no. 9(2), pp. 208—220.

Information About the Authors

Ksenia N. Belogai, PhD in Psychology, Associate Professor, Associate Professor of the Department of Acmeology and Developmental Psychology, Kemerovo State University, Kemerovo, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Yuliya V. Borisenko, PhD in Psychology, Associate Professor, Associate Professor of the Department of Acmeology and Developmental Psychology, Institute of Education, Kemerovo State University, Kemerovo, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Natalya A. Bugrova, PhD in Psychology, Associate Professor of the Department of Acmeology and Psychology of Development, Institute of Education, Kemerovo State University, Kemerovo, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



Total: 650
Previous month: 54
Current month: 1


Total: 178
Previous month: 10
Current month: 1