Children receive cultural messages about appropriate eating, exercise, and attitudes from a variety of influences, likely including family, friends, schools, religious institutions, and electronic culture (television, movies, and video games). One important source of culture in the worid for children is children's movies. Children have access to many movies and the ability to view them over and over again, contributing to significant daily exposure, more for children from minority backgrounds. These movies provide cues to normative behavior and experiences widely shared among similar-age children nationally and even woridwide. Prior research has established the prevalence and influence of negative health messages in movies, especially smoking, sexual behavior, and alcohol use. Our team's preliminary work has examined movies and found top-grossing G- and PG-rated movies depict unhealthy eating and sedentary activity as the norm, while simultaneously mocking overweight characters. The presentation of obesity, therefore, is condemning with the depiction of unhealthy food and exercise choices as positive. Research examining how children interpret these messages from culture, however, is scant. Understanding the production, transmission, and reception of health-related cues from children's movies is an inherently transdisciplinary task. We plan to integrate a transdisciplinary team that builds upon expertise in visual culture, cognitive and clinical psychology, media studies, cultural sociology, psychiatry, public health, pediatrics, and obesity that will be well poised to conduct basic social and behavioral research on culture, health, and wellbeing. We also propose a project as a case study for developing important, translatable measures.
Specific aims are: 1. To build a transdisciplinary research team that transcends disciplinary boundaries through synergistic work to focus on the relationship between visual culture and children's cognitive processing about eating, activity, obesity, and stigma to contribute to knowledge about the nature of behavioral and social systems; 2. To develop a transdisciplinary conceptual model, research methods, and measurement strategies to assess what children observe in children's movies about eating and activity behaviors, obesity, and stigma about weight status (i.e., what do children see?); 3. To develop measurement strategies to determine how these cues might affect attitudes and intentions with regard to eating, activity, and weight status (i.e., how does what children see affect how they interpret and plan to act on these messages?).

Public Health Relevance

Children's movies are an important source of cultural messages to children about healthy and unhealthy attitudes and behaviors. This project will build a transdisciplinary research team and conduct a research project to develop measurement tools to understand the basic processes behind movies'and other cultural factors'effects on such attitudes and behaviors, particulariy those related to obesity.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Resource-Related Research Projects (R24)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-PSE-R (50))
Program Officer
Chou, Wen-Ying
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Schools of Medicine
Chapel Hill
United States
Zip Code