Girls as young as three worry about their body image, according to a new study.
Psychology professor Stacey Tantleff-Dunn and doctoral student Sharon Hayes, University of Central Florida, found that nearly half of the 3-to 6-year-old girls worried about being fat even before they start school.
Experts observed that about one-third would go the extent of changing a physical attribute, such as their weight or hair colour. But the study concluded that watching a movie starring a stereotypically thin and beautiful princess may not influence young girls' behaviour or self-esteem.
Researchers urged parents to take their young girls to see animated movies since they were unlikely to influence how they perceive their bodies.
Tantleff-Dunn, who directs UCF's Laboratory for the Study of Eating, Appearance and Health, said: "We need to help our children challenge the images of beauty, particularly thinness, that they see and idolize and encourage them to question how much appearance should be part of their self-worth.
"We should help them build a positive self-image with an appreciation for many different types of body attributes."