Thursday, September 13, 2012

Eating Disorders in Younger Children

According to statistics on anorexia show that between 1 – 5% of all female adolescents and young women are anorexic.  The average age of onset is 17.  It is rare, but not unheard of, for children under the age of 10 to have the condition. Ninety percent of people with eating disorders are female. Girls as young as kindergarten express concerns about their weight.
In the book The Slender Trap: A Food and Body Workbook Laura Stern gives young girls the opportunity to explore how they feel about themselves. Stern discusses the attention given to food and body size in elementary school. According to Stern, in the United States, 42 percent of girls enrolled in first, second or third grade reported that they wanted to lose weight. As children get older, things get worse. Among third, fourth, fifth and sixth graders, 45 percent of elementary school students wanted to be thinner. Stern reports that approximately 9 percent of nine-year-olds have vomited to lose weight.
If this data is correct, what are elementary counselors doing to address this concern? Body image is an area of particular importance. Pointing out to children that a variety of body types are valued in various cultures, and making sure that they are aware of pop icons who do not have perfect faces and physiques maybe helpful. Helping children to choose appropriate role models is one key to good self-esteem, and playing team sports has also been found to be beneficial. Counselors should also inform parents that eating disorders can occur in elementary age children and if they suspect a problem a physician should be contacted immediately.

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