of Ourselves: Advancing Girl Power,
Health and Leadership
Our goals were to create an eating disorders prevention
program for girls ages 8-14, to implement the program, and to measure program
outcomes. We spent three years writing
and revising two program curricula, Full
of Ourselves and Throw Your Weight
Around, designed to reduce
risk for disordered eating by increasing self-esteem, promoting body acceptance,
providing leadership opportunities, and teaching a range of coping strategies
to resist the cultural emphasis on maladaptive body preoccupation and unhealthy
eating and dieting behaviors.
Full of Ourselves’ unique
contributions to the prevention literature include the following: 1) a strong sociopolitical perspective; 2) an
emphasis on translating knowledge and awareness into action; 3) a mentoring component; 4) a
large study sample size; 5) random assignment of participants; and 6)
longitudinal follow-up of subjects.
We accepted all 32
schools who volunteered to participate in the program pilot::
24 public, 5 private, and 3 parochial.
Twenty-four schools were in the Northeast (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine). Eight
schools were in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Girls were randomly assigned
to participating and control groups at 29 of 32 sites.
In the Northeast, we started with 260 participants and
239 controls. We collected data
pre-program, post- program (T2) and six-month follow up (T3). At 3rd round of data collection,
response rate was still high at 82%. In Tulsa, we
started with 560 participants and 208 controls.
At the 3rd round of data collection the response rate had
dropped to 45%, mainly due to the withdrawal of one school from the research
We have analyzed survey
data for all 32 sites in the Northeast sites and Tulsa. The
research questionnaire included sections on background information, curriculum
content and goals, and five standardized scales or portions thereof:
Attitudes Towards Appearance Questionnaire (SATAQ)
Scale for Young Adolescents and Adults
Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale
Satisfaction Scale of the Multidimensional Body-Self Relations Questionnaire
Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (abbreviated)
Research reveals that
Full of Ourselves is feasible, that it causes no harm, and that it effects
positive changes in several key areas.
This is the first prevention program of its kind to effect sustained
positive changes in girls’ body image, body satisfaction and body esteem,
important risk factors in the development of eating disorders. At the six-month post-program assessment,
significant favorable differences between participants and controls in both the
Northeast and Tulsa were found on the Body Esteem Scale and Body
Areas Satisfaction Scale. The program
also resulted in sustained positive changes in girls’ knowledge about health,
nutrition, weightism and puberty.
Data on eating behaviors reveal mixed results. In the Northeast, there were no significant quantitative
differences between participants and controls at T2 and T3 on measures
assessing dieting and eating behaviors.
In contrast, Tulsa
participants were less likely to engage in weight-loss behaviors than control
subjects at both assessment points. What
might account for this dramatic difference in effect? One speculation is that long-lasting changes
are more likely to occur when the program is administered grade-wide (the case in Tulsa
schools) rather than to a select subset
of girls within a given grade (the case in Northeast schools). When the program is delivered across an
entire peer group, the resulting “environmental” effect may make it easier for
participants to sustain long-lasting behavioral change. Future research will help us to determine the
validity of this hypothesis.