Dangerous beauty

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The neuroses that often afflict young girls about their body image are well known. Bombarded by images of unnaturally skinny models, they can come to accept this look as the standard of feminine beauty. Headlines about an obesity epidemic reinforce this. This leads to a profound unhappiness with the state of their own bodies.

The neuroses that often afflict young girls about their body image are well known. Bombarded by images of unnaturally skinny models, they can come to accept this look as the standard of feminine beauty. Headlines about an obesity epidemic reinforce this. This leads to a profound unhappiness with the state of their own bodies.

Boys were always thought to be less likely to feel these pressures. But a report to the British Psychological Society from researchers at Staffordshire University shows how wrong this is. Almost 80 per cent of a trial group of 11-14-year-olds - made up of children of both sexes - were worried about their body shape. And most of the time this concern was unfounded. They were of normal weight.

The researchers suggest that the increasing popularity of male grooming magazines is giving young boys a dangerously distorted perception of what a normal body looks like. Whatever lies behind it, this is not a trend that society can afford to ignore. The only solution is to educate children about what a healthy person really looks like and make them realise that - in most cases - they have absolutely nothing to worry about.

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