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Body image and body dissatisfaction is an issue in western countries. Many females, especially dancers, have been objectified by a cultural stereotype of a thin body and being referred to as “skin and bones”. Recently, body disturbances have been reported in children as young as six years old. Children this young may be unaware that they are expressing these negative thoughts about their bodies and thus, the measures assessing body image are challenging to analyze. Another line of research has shown that children spontaneously produce hand gestures when narrating stories, solving math problems, or explaining scientific ideas. Moreover, children convey ideas in their hand gestures before they can convey these ideas in the verbal modality. Gesture, along with the verbal modality, is a useful tool when assessing what a child knows or is thinking, especially when those ideas are new. We examined if young dancers display a negative body image and whether or not there are age related changes in body image when comparing the younger dancers to the older ones. In addition, we examined through gesture and speech, whether or not additional information about one's body image can be assessed and if these responses change across development. Using a cross sectional design, body image was measured in dancers using one of the following tests, the Body Assessment (BIA) (Williamson, et al, 1989), the Body Image Assessment for Preadolescents (BIA-P), or the Body Image Assessment for Children (BIA-C) (Veron-Guidry & Williamson, 1996). In addition, participant’s gestures were examined through follow-up questions on the BIA measure. While there was not a statistical significance on the BIA across age groups, children displayed a more negative body image in comparison to the other age groups. Gesture was also found to convey substantial information about a dancer’s body image. The findings suggest that it is important to look at children’s gestures, along with their speech, to determine a more accurate representation about body image.



Thesis Comittee

Melissa Singer (Thesis Director)

Michelle Mamberg

Elizabeth Spievak

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Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.

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