According to a latest study, young children, engaged in theater productions, are likely to promote a healthier body image.
Led by Professor Viren Swami of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), the new study, published in Body Image, assessed the responses of children aged 5 to 9 before and after attending productions of “Cinderella: the AWESOME truth’ at a theater in London. Previous research suggests that children begin to understand societal standards of appearance at age five, and body dissatisfaction begins to develop in girls and boys from age six.
Professor Swami, a body image expert, was consulted during the development of ‘Cinderella: The AWESOME Truth’, with the aim of producing a show that could help children develop a positive body image and self-image.
A new contemporary version of the traditional story was developed through workshops with over 200 children. The show includes topics such as body shame and its effects, managing appearance expectations and anxieties, the impact of social media on body image, and the value of friendships in promoting attitudes. healthier bodies and higher self-esteem. Kids learn that what makes them “great” is what they and their bodies can do, not what they look like.
The researchers recruited 54 girls and 45 boys, and their body appreciation was measured before and after watching the show, which was staged at Wimbledon’s Polka Theatre. Participants also answered open-ended questions about their own uniqueness and awe-inspiring character. The research found that boys’ and girls’ body appreciation scores improved after watching the production. The number of responses covering what makes them “unique” or “awesome” also increased after dating, for both boys and girls.
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Importantly, these improvements were achieved while maintaining near-universal enjoyment of the show and providing key learning outcomes, as assessed by the children’s qualitative responses.
Viren Swami, Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said: “We know physical and physical dissatisfaction is associated with adverse health and psychological effects, including symptoms of depression. , low self-esteem, eating disorders and reduced physical capacity. activity, and it can start in children as young as six years old.
“Thanks to social media, children are becoming aware of unrealistic and unhealthy aspects of body image at an increasingly young age. Therefore, it is important to find new ways to counter these threats by conveying positive messages to We have found that drama is a successful way to talk to young children about appearance and positive body image.
“It may not be possible to reach all children through theater given production costs and barriers to attendance, for example, ticket prices. However, we have shown that it is beneficial to use theater performances to promote healthy body image messages, as well as potentially integrating body image-focused drama and theater into school curricula.”
Study co-author Sarah Punshon, who wrote and directed Cinderella: The Awesome Truth for a Tenth Human, said, “Children’s theater has enormous potential to promote positive body image. and music are all essential.
“Developing the show through in-depth exploration with children meant we could tap into current concerns and desires and craft a story that underscores that what truly makes a person great is what they and their body can do, not what she looks like. We’re particularly pleased that improvement was achieved for both boys and girls – previous studies have suggested that body image interventions may be less effective for boys,” she added.
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