Research Summary

Full of Ourselves:  Advancing Girl Power, Health and Leadership

 

Program Goals:
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 project.

 

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:

 

1.       Sociocultural Attitudes Towards Appearance Questionnaire (SATAQ)

2.       Body Esteem Scale for Young Adolescents and Adults

3.       Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale

4.       Body Areas Satisfaction Scale of the Multidimensional Body-Self Relations Questionnaire

5.       Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (abbreviated)

 

Findings to date:

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.