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Department of Psychological Sciences

Christina Scott, Ph.D.

TITLE: Assistant Professor of Psychology

COMPANY: St. Mary’s College of California

Advisor: Dr. Leon Rappoport

Dissertation Title

Eating disorders in young women: a test of psychodrama intervention

Dissertation Abstract

This study was designed to investigate whether experience in a Psychodrama session devoted to eating behaviors could be helpful to college women at risk for an eating disorder. Recent research (Franko, 1998) suggests that over 40% of female college freshmen have significantly disturbed eating behaviors. Academic and social pressures apparently may become combined with a negative self image and a distorted body image, and thus put young women at risk for severe eating disturbances.

A sample of approximately 500 college women were given a questionnaire, the EDI-2 (Garner, 1990), shown by prior research to provide valid measures of potential eating problems. Ninety-one of these women were identified as "high risk" and 92 were considered to be "low risk" and were randomly assigned to one of three treatment conditions: Psychodrama, Eating Disorder Videos or Alcohol Videos. Two weeks later, the women were re-administered the EDI-2, and their post scores were compared with their initial scores to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatments. The hypothesis that high risk women in the Psychodrama condition would demonstrate the greatest reduction in their expressions of eating disordered behaviors and attitudes was supported.

Women in the Psychodrama condition rated their treatment program as being more effective than participants in the other conditions. Since the Psychodrama scenes related directly to the common experiences of college women, it is not surprising that they viewed this treatment program as more effective and applicable to their own lives. Clearly the opportunity to participate in an active learning program was viewed as being more effective than watching a video on eating disorders.

Participants were also administered a scenario questionnaire which allowed them to indicate how they would handle situations which involved eating in public or dealing with stressful situations such as exams or social events. Although the hypothesis that high risk women in the Psychodrama condition would select fewer "damaging" choices on their post test as compared to the other treatment conditions was not supported, all high risk women did show a significant positive change in their post scores from their pre scores. It was concluded that Psychodrama provides an effective method of intervention for college women at risk for eating disorders, but a more extensive program may be needed in order to produce long term changes in their dysfunctional beliefs.


Ph.D., Psychology, Kansas State University, 2000