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“Everybody Knows That Mass Media Are/Are Not [pick one] a Cause of Eating Disorders”: A Critical Review of Evidence for a Causal Link Between Media, Negative Body Image, and Disordered Eating in Females

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2009.28.1.9

This article reviews research pertaining to mass media as a causal risk factor for negative body image and disordered eating in females. The specific purpose is to clarify the impact of mass media by applying seven criteria that extend those of Kraemer et al. (1997) and Stice (2002). Although media effects clearly meet a majority of the criteria, this analysis indicates that, currently, engagement with mass media is probably best considered a variable risk factor that might well be later shown to be a causal risk factor. Recommendations are made for further research, with an emphasis on longitudinal investigations, studies of media literacy as a form of prevention, and clarification of psychosocial processes that moderate and mediate media effects.