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Exploring teachers’ perceptions of promoting acceptance of diverse appearances in primary school children (4-11 years)

Parnell, Jade; Williamson, Heidi; Lewis, Fay; Slater, Amy


Jade Parnell

Heidi Williamson
Associate Professor in Applied Health Research

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Dr Fay Lewis
Senior Lecturer in Mathematics

Amy Slater
Associate Professor in Centre for Appearance Research


Objectives and design: Research suggests children can begin judging others based on their appearance as early as 4 years old. Stigma towards children who have a diverse appearance (e.g., higher weight, visible difference) can have a negative impact on their overall health and wellbeing. Therefore, it is crucial that research focuses on ways to promote acceptance of all appearances among young children. Given teachers are key gatekeepers to children’s development, they could be an important gateway for promoting acceptance of diverse appearances. Thus, this study aimed to qualitatively explore teachers’ perceptions on this topic.

Methods: Primary school teachers (n = 10), currently teaching in England, took part in an online semi-structured interview. Responses were analysed thematically using template analysis.
Results: Analysis yielded four main themes: (1) Change the narrative before children create one (2) Normalising all appearances (3) Pressure on schools to make a difference (4) Teachers' anxiety of the topic, and one integrative theme: (A) Conceptualising appearance diversity.

Conclusions: Findings indicate that despite teachers seeing the value of promoting appearance diversity in children, they are concerned about getting it wrong. These concerns, as well as lack of guidance, support, funding and time can lead to the topic being missed or avoided. There is a need for increased support to help teachers feel more confident when promoting appearance diversity in primary schools. The current findings will help researchers and education professionals understand teachers’ perspectives on this topic and inform strategies for promoting acceptance of diverse appearances in young children.


Parnell, J., Williamson, H., Lewis, F., & Slater, A. (2022, June). Exploring teachers’ perceptions of promoting acceptance of diverse appearances in primary school children (4-11 years). Presented at Division of Health Psychology Annual Conference 2022, Bristol

Presentation Conference Type Speech
Conference Name Division of Health Psychology Annual Conference 2022
Conference Location Bristol
Start Date Jun 27, 2022
End Date Jun 29, 2022
Deposit Date Dec 1, 2022
Keywords Acceptance, Diversity, Appearances
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