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Female Body Image Wrecked By Older Girls

Update Date: Sep 18, 2014 03:37 PM EDT

Older girls can seriously influence the body image of their younger counterparts, according to a new study.

While the media has been highly criticized for contributing to body images issues among adolescents, new research reveals that older girls at school can also trigger body dissatisfaction among their younger counterparts.

The latest study involved surveys from 1,536 female students between 5th grade and 8th grade.  Researchers noted that some of the 5th and 6th graders attended school with older students while other attended school with younger students.

All students were asked to complete three questionnaires about their eating habits, attitudes about appearance and body consciousness.

The study revealed that female 5th and 6th graders who went to school with older girls 7th and 8th graders were significantly more likely to report wanting to be thin. They were also significantly less satisfied with their bodies and experienced significantly more self-consciousness about their body image.

Study results revealed that 5th grade girls who went to school with 6th through 8th graders reported an average body dissatisfaction score that was 1.7 times higher than girls in the same grade who went to school with younger students.

"Elevated levels of body dissatisfaction, drive for thinness, thin-ideal internalization, body surveillance, and body shame may undermine young teens' social, emotional, and academic well-being both during the early teen years and in later life," researchers wrote in the study. "Although body image tends to decline as girls move through adolescence, this study suggests that school grade groupings may influence the pace and timing of this decline."

Researchers said the findings suggest that educators should delay younger students' exposure to older grade levels.

"The ideal solution, of course, would be to eliminate the body travails of students of all ages; if older teens were more satisfied with their bodies, then exposure to older schoolmates would be benign," researcher concluded.

The findings are published in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly.

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