Theatre productions can help to promote healthier body image in young children, a study has found.
Led by body image expert Professor Viren Swami of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), the study evaluated the responses of children aged between five and nine-years-old before and after attending productions of Cinderella: the AWESOME Truth at a theatre in London.
Professor Swami was consulted during the development of the production with the aim of creating a show that could help children develop positive body image and self-image.
The research, based on responses from 54 girls and 45 boys, found that body appreciation scores for both boys and girls improved after watching the production.
The improvements were achieved while maintaining near universal enjoyment of the show and delivering key learning outcomes, as assessed through the children’s qualitative responses.
“We know that body and appearance dissatisfaction is associated with detrimental health and psychological outcomes, including symptoms of depression, low self-esteem, disordered eating, and decreased physical activity, and this can begin in children as young as six," Professor Swarmi said.
“Due to social media, children are becoming aware of unrealistic and unhealthy aspects of body image at an ever-younger age. Therefore, it is important to find new ways of countering these threats by delivering positive messages to young children.
“It may not be feasible to reach all children through theatre given production costs and barriers to attendance, for example ticket prices. However, we have shown there is merit in using theatrical performances to promote healthy body image messages, as well as potentially embedding drama and theatre with a body image focus in school-based curricula.”