Author

Anne L. Hague

Date of Award

8-2003

Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Food Science and Human Nutrition

Advisor

Adrienne A. White

Second Committee Member

Rodney J. Bushway

Third Committee Member

Richard A. Cook

Abstract

Teachers have an active role in helping to prevent and deter stigmatizing acts toward children labeled as "fat." The objective was to examine attitudes of obesity and their change processes among student teachers and schoolteachers, when exposed to a Web-based educational module promoting size acceptance, using the Elaboration- Likelihood Model (ELM). The ELM is a theoretical approach to message-based persuasion specifying conditions under which attitude change occurs. The theory was used to explain the impact of the module (content included etiological factors of obesity, implications of weight loss efforts, and emotionaVpsychosocia1 effects of obesity), high nutrition credibility of the module presenter (PhD, RD), and her appearance (digital image was altered to appear either "fat" or "nonfat") on attitude change. The effect of subject body mass index (BMI) on attitudes was also evaluated. The sample included undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Maine System as well as schoolteachers from the New England region. Subjects (n=258; mean age=26.8f 10.2) were randomly assigned to one of five groups (controVfour treatment groups). The treatment groups evaluated the effect of the module, credibility, credible %on-fat" source, and credible "fat" source on attitude change. Change was assessed on-line at pretest, posttest, and six-week follow-up using the Anti-Fat Attitudes Test (AFAT). AFAT is a Likert scale ranging from 1 = strongly disagree with negative attitude to 5 = strongly agree with negative attitude toward obesity. Additional tests were used to evaluate support for the ELM. Attitude means decreased in treatment groups between pretest (mean scores +standard error ranged from 1.91 2k0.062 to 1.995zk0.067) to posttest (1.724f 0.262 to 1.815+0.074) (p=0.000) and pretest to follow-up (mean scores ranged from 1.721k0.070 to 1.871+0.078) (pS0.006). Although attitude was not associated with subject BMI, exposure to the credible "fat" presenter more favorably influenced attitudes (i.e. posttest and follow-up) compared to the credible "non-fat" presenter (p<0.025). Communicating the size acceptance paradigm on-line appeared to reduce negative attitudes of obesity regardless of subject BMI. The findings support moderate elaboration based on the ELM. The presence of the credible "fat" source may have increased attention to the size acceptance message.

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