Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Suzanne E Mazzeo


Obesity and eating disorders are pervasive concerns among young adult women, and profoundly impact physical and psychological functioning. Weight-related disorders are typically chronic conditions; their treatment is often complex and frequently ineffective. Moreover, Black and Latina women have disproportionately high rates of obesity, and experience rates of eating disorders comparable to those of their White peers; yet, they are less likely to be referred to appropriate treatment. Given the intractability of weight-related concerns and their detrimental consequences, attempts to prevent unhealthy eating attitudes and behaviors are essential. To date, few prevention programs have significantly reduced both obesity risk and eating disorder symptoms. The purpose of the current study was to develop and pilot an intervention designed to prevent obesity and eating disorders among young adult women (age 18-25). In the first phase of the study, focus groups were conducted with 30 young adult women to explore disparate racial and ethnic appearance ideals and assess cultural acceptability of the proposed intervention. Additionally, an innovative manualized intervention informed by the qualitative data and grounded in social psychological principles and dialectical behavior therapy was developed. In the second phase of the study, 29 young adult women were recruited to participate in the intervention. Participants completed a battery of questionnaires at pretest (baseline), posttest (8-weeks), and 4-week follow-up. Findings reveal vast differences in beauty standards among disparate racial/ethnic women and demonstrate the need to enhance the cultural sensitivity of current intervention approaches. Results suggest the feasibility and acceptability of a culturally sensitive prevention program intended to reduce the risk of both unhealthy weight gain and eating pathology.


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