Primary prevention of disordered eating among preadolescent girls: feasibility and short-term effect of a community-based intervention

J Am Diet Assoc. 2000 Dec;100(12):1466-73. doi: 10.1016/S0002-8223(00)00410-7.


Objective: To evaluate a community-based intervention aimed at the primary prevention of disordered eating among preadolescent girls.

Design: Girl Scout troop members were randomized into control and intervention groups. Program feasibility and effect at postintervention and 3-month follow-up were evaluated.

Subjects/setting: 226 girls (mean age = 10.6 years, standard deviation = 0.7) from 24 Girl Scout troops.

Intervention: Six 90-minute sessions focusing on media literacy and advocacy skills.

Main outcome measures: Evaluation focused on program satisfaction and short-term effect on dieting behaviors, body image attitudes, and media knowledge, attitudes, and habits.

Statistical analyses: Performed t tests, chi 2 tests, and analyses of covariance including troop as a random source of variation.

Results: At baseline, 29% of the girls were trying to lose weight. The program had a notable positive influence on media-related attitudes and behaviors including internalization of sociocultural ideals, self-efficacy to impact weight-related social norms, and print media habits. A modest program effect on body-related knowledge and attitudes was apparent at post-intervention (i.e., on body size acceptance, puberty knowledge, and perceived weight status) but not at follow-up. Significant changes were not noted for dieting behaviors, but they were in the hypothesized direction. Satisfaction with the program was high among girls, parents, and leaders.

Applications/conclusions: It is feasible to use community youth settings, such as the Girl Scouts, to implement interventions to prevent disordered eating behaviors. The program led to positive trends in outcome variables; however, longer and more intensive interventions are needed for lasting changes in body image and dieting behaviors.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Body Image*
  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Child Nutrition Sciences / education*
  • Diet, Reducing
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Feeding Behavior* / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Mass Media
  • Organizations, Nonprofit
  • Primary Prevention
  • Program Evaluation
  • Self Concept
  • Self Efficacy*
  • Self-Assessment
  • United States / epidemiology