Childhood obesity, gender, actual-ideal body image discrepancies, and physical self-concept in Hong Kong children: Cultural differences in the value of moderation.

Herbert W. Marsh, K. T. Hau, R. Y.T. Sung, C. W. Yu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


Childhood obesity is increasingly prevalent in Western and non-Western societies. The authors related multiple dimensions of physical self-concept to body composition for 763 Chinese children aged 8 to 15 and compared the results with Western research. Compared with Western research, gender differences favoring boys were generally much smaller for physical self-concept and body image. Objective and subjective indexes of body fat were negatively related to many components of physical self-concept, but-in contrast to Western research-were unrelated to global self-esteem and slightly positively related to health self-concept. In support of discrepancy theory, actual-ideal discrepancies in body image were related to physical self-concept. However, consistent with the Chinese cultural value of moderation, and in contrast to Western results, being too thin relative to personal ideals was almost as detrimental as being too fat. The results reflect stronger Chinese cultural values of moderation and acceptance of obesity than in Western culture and have implications for social and educational policy in China.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)647-662
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Actual-ideal discrepancy models
  • Body image
  • Childhood obesity
  • Cultural differences
  • Doctrine of the mean
  • Gender differences
  • Moderation
  • Physical self-concept

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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