Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Catherine A. Forestell

Committee Members

Meghan Sinton

Melissa McInerney


From a young age, girls form attitudes about their weight and body shape. The goal of the present paper is to explore how maternal messages, both direct and indirect, regarding dieting and body image affect girls' body image and their approach and avoidance responses to healthy and unhealthy foods. A sample of 73 girls between the ages of 4 and 12 years completed an approach/avoidance task (AAT), and measures of their dieting behavior and body image. Sixty-one mothers completed questionnaires examining their own body image and eating habits, as well as their child feeding practices. Direct messages (e.g. telling girls to diet, actively restricting girls' food intake) significantly predicted body image in regression analyses, and mediation analyses revealed that while indirect maternal messages (e.g. mothers' own weight, shape, and eating concern) may affect girls' body image, the effect of these messages on body dissatisfaction is mediated by girls' fear of becoming overweight. For the AAT, regression models revealed that indirect messages predicted a significant amount of variance for girls' responses to unhealthful foods, while girls' body image and their eating behaviors predicted a significant amount of variance in their responses to healthful foods. The results indicate that the AAT is a valid measure for approach and avoidance of healthful and unhealthful foods in girls age 7 years and older, and both direct and indirect messages from mothers effect girls' body image and their responses to foods.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


Thesis is part of Honors ETD pilot project, 2008-2013. Migrated from Dspace in 2016.

On-Campus Access Only