Even Your 4-Year-Old Thinks Thin Is Beautiful — For Women

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So much for the assumption that little kids aren’t aware enough to interpret a fashion magazine or cultural attitudes about image. Livescience reports that children between three and five years of age equate thinness with beauty — specifically for women.

Livescience reports:

The participants were shown six images of the same black-clad woman of normal body weight according to Body Mass Index (BMI), a weight-height ratio used to indicate a person’s fatness. In five of the images, the image had been altered the make the woman look thinner or fatter (her face was blotted out with a dark square).

Even the the youngest four-year-olds in the study ranked the “significantly thinner body” as “the most beautiful.”

Because there were no pictures of men offered in this study, we have no idea if the same standards would apply. And while it’s easy to rail against what this means for little girls who will grow up to be women, I think it’s also worth pointing out that little boys were a part of this study too. Messages about what is deemed beautiful, and conversely what is not, is seeping into their brains too — determining how they might view women as they get older.

It would be a shame to produce a generation of men who only consider beauty to fall within a certain weight bracket, and as girls may try to conform to these standards with their own bodies, little boys are getting the identical message just the same. Depictions of women that favor “significantly thinner” forms are damaging to boys too who will, in turn, reinforce this notion as men in a grown up world.