New research indicates that ultra-thin magazine models do not have a long-term,negative impact on adolescent girls

Only vulnerable youth appear to be affected

Previous research indicated that exposure to ultra-thin models in fashion magazines leads to excessive dieting and body dissatisfaction among adolescent girls. However, a new study that will be presented at the American Psychological Association's 107th Annual Convention in Boston, August 20-24, 1999, found few lasting effects. Only those girls who already had body-image problems were at risk for negative effects.

Psychologists Eric Stice, Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin; Diane Spangler, Ph.D., Brigham Young University; and W. Stewart Agras, MD, Stanford University, randomly assigned 219 girls, ages 13 to 17, to a 15-month subscription to Seventeen magazine, which is the most widely read magazine among adolescent females, or to a no-magazine control group and followed the girls for 20 months. Despite the increased amount of time participants spent reading the fashion magazine, there were no effects on body dissatisfaction, thin-ideal internalization, dieting or negative affect over time. The only adverse effect occurred in adolescents with initially elevated body dissatisfaction: Exposure to the fashion magazine resulted in increased negative affect/depression for these adolescents.

"The discrepancy between our study and previous research is largely because we measured the effects in a natural environment," said Dr. Stice. "Previous research that suggested magazine-portrayed, thin-ideal images would lead to eating disorders and low self-esteem among teenage girls consisted of laboratory experiments. This study suggests that the negative effects have little long-term impact."

Because the findings indicate that the only at-risk individuals are those who already have body-image problems, why the continued correlation between magazine models and eating disorders among teenage girls? "Perhaps high-risk individuals seek

Contact: Pam Willenz
American Psychological Association

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