Which Eating Disorder Prevention Themes are Most Persuasive? Input from Clinical and Non-clinical Samples
Witton, Nicole Suzanne
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Eating disorder prevention programs have been shown to be an effective strategy in combating the development of disordered eating behaviours and attitudes in young women. However, such programs are typically broadband in their content and there is some research suggesting that eating disorder prevention programs directed at young women can have adverse effects. The current study examined adolescent responses to five specific prevention themes that are commonly used in prevention programs, in order to establish which themes were considered most persuasive (i.e., relevant, believable, and emotionally impactful), and had the greatest impact on behavioural intentions (i.e., intention to diet, intention to compare body). The prevention themes were evaluated by clinical participants (i.e., adolescents in treatment for diagnosed eating disorders) and non-clinical participants (i.e., university undergraduates with no current symptoms or history of eating disorders), and the responses of the two groups were compared. Group differences were found in overall persuasiveness ratings, such that clinical participants found the messages to be less persuasive overall than did non-clinical participants. Additionally, clinical participants reported no change in their behavioural intentions following exposure to the prevention themes, whereas non-clinical participants reported a lower intention to diet and make body comparisons after viewing the messages. It was unclear as to whether eating disorder status was exclusively responsible for these group differences, as participant age also appeared to contribute to our findings. The current research found differences in how adolescents respond to common eating disorder prevention messages, which has implications for future treatment and prevention initiatives.