, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 129-139
Date: 06 Oct 2011

Effect of a Dissonance-Based Prevention Program on Risk for Eating Disorder Onset in the Context of Eating Disorder Risk Factors

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Test (a) whether a dissonance-based eating disorder prevention program that reduces thin-ideal internalization mitigates the effects of risk factors for eating disorder onset and (b) whether the risk factors moderate the effects of this intervention on risk for eating disorder onset, to place the effects of this intervention within the context of established risk factors. Female adolescents (N = 481) with body image concerns were randomized to the dissonance-based program, healthy weight control program, expressive writing control condition, or assessment-only control condition. Denial of costs of pursuing the thin-ideal was the most potent risk factor for eating disorder onset during the 3-year follow-up (OR = 5.0). The dissonance program mitigated the effect of this risk factor. For participants who did not deny costs of pursuing the thin-ideal, emotional eating and externalizing symptoms increased risk for eating disorder onset. Negative affect attenuated the effects of each of the active interventions in this trial. Results imply that this brief prevention program offsets the risk conveyed by the most potent risk factor for eating disorder onset in this sample, implicate three vulnerability pathways to eating pathology involving thin-ideal pursuit, emotional eating, and externalizing symptoms, and suggest that negative affect mitigates the effects of eating disorder prevention programs.

This study was supported by research grants (MH/DK6195 and MH70699) and a career award (MH01708) from the National Institutes of Health.
We thank project managers Erin Martinez, Emily Wade, and Kathryn Fisher; project research assistants Emily Burton, Cassie Goodin, and Natalie McKee; our undergraduate volunteers; the Austin Independent School District; and the participants who made this study possible.