Negative Comments From Mothers Influence Asian Girls’ Body Image Interview with:
Samuel Chng
PhD Researcher in Psychology Applied to Health
University of Exeter Medical School
St Luke’s campus
Exeter, EX1 2LU, United Kingdom

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The study was conceptualised from the curious question from my childhood, “How did my parents influence my behaviours?” Together with my co-author, Dr. Daniel Fassnacht, we decided to explore how a specific form of parental influence, their comments, would influence the development of disordered eating symptoms. From studies conducted with Western samples that parental comments play a role in the development of eating disorder symptoms, and body dissatisfaction is one of the more studied mediator of this relationship. However, we could not find any study that investigated the influential nature of parent comments in Asia. So, we decided to focus our study on Asian parents and their children.

Singapore, a developed Asian country that continues to have strong familial roots, provided an ideal population for our study, and we would expect, the relationships we found indicated some potential differences in amongst Asian families.

We found that young women, compared to young men, in Singapore generally reported higher levels of parental comments (about their weight, body shape and eating habit), body dissatisfaction and disordered eating symptoms. However what we found for both young women and men was that negative comments from mothers (for example, ‘You need to lose weight’) was the only category of comments that predicted disordered eating and this was mediated by the presence of body dissatisfaction. Positive comments from parents, though suggested from past studies to be a protective factor, did not influence body dissatisfaction and disordered eating.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: The study highlights the importance of considering the cultural context when discussing the influence of parents on their child. Asian mothers seems to be more influential than Asian fathers and a possible explanation for this might be the implicit social hierarchy embedded within the Asian culture. However, more research needs to be done for us to be able to unravel this observed difference.

Additionally, this supports the call for a tailored approach for health services and interventions.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Future research should continue to explore these relationships in culturally different Asian samples using longitudinal study designs to better understand the underlying mechanisms and causal relationships.


Samuel C.W. Chng, Daniel B. Fassnacht. Parental comments: Relationship with gender, body dissatisfaction, and disordered eating in Asian young adults. Body Image, 2016; 16: 93 DOI:10.1016/j.bodyim.2015.12.001

[wysija_form id=”5″]








Last Updated on January 18, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD