Reduction of shape and weight concern in young adolescents: a 30-month controlled evaluation of a media literacy program

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2009 Jun;48(6):652-661. doi: 10.1097/CHI.0b013e3181a1f559.


Objective: Recent eating disorder prevention efforts have targeted high-risk females in late adolescence (>15 years). Methodologically rigorous evaluations of prevention programs directed to younger, mixed-sex, universal audiences are largely absent. The primary objective was to evaluate a theoretically informed media literacy program delivered to a mixed-sex, universal, young adolescent audience.

Method: Five hundred forty Grade 8 students (mean age 13.62 years, SD 0.37 years) from 4 schools participated with a total of 11 classes receiving the 8-lesson media literacy program (126 girls and 107 boys) and 13 comparison classes receiving their normal school lessons (147 girls and 160 boys). Shape and weight concern (primary outcome variable) and seven additional eating disorder risk factors (e.g., dieting, media internalization) were measured with validated questionnaires at baseline, postprogram, and 6- and 30-month follow-up.

Results: Linear mixed model analyses were conducted using a 2 (group: media literacy program, control) x 3 (time: postprogram, 6-month follow-up, 30-month follow-up) x 2 (sex: girls, boys) mixed within-between design, with baseline entered as a covariate. Main effects for group, favoring the media literacy program, were found for shape and weight concern (effect size [ES] = 0.29), dieting (ES = 0.26), body dissatisfaction (ES = 0.20), ineffectiveness (ES = 0.23), and depression (ES = 0.26).

Conclusion: Media literacy can be an effective intervention for reducing shape and weight concern and other eating disorder risk factors long-term in a universal mixed-sex, young adolescent population. More evaluations of methodologically sound prevention programs are required with this demographic.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Advertising*
  • Body Image*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight*
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology
  • Diet, Reducing / psychology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnosis
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Education*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Media*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Self Concept
  • South Australia