Intel honors three Kennedy seniors

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That was the surprising finding of a science research project conducted over the past year and a half by Jellinek, 17, of Bellmore. Jellinek questioned 104 local girls, ages 6 to 8, about their food preferences after they played with one of two dolls — Barbie or Tracy Turnblad, the “full-figured” leading character in the movie musical “Hairspray.”

It turns out that playing with Barbie made the girls more inclined to choose healthy foods over salt- or sugar-laden snacks, while playing with Tracy made them more likely to reach for junk food, according to Jellinek’s research paper, “The Effect of Barbie Dolls and Their Wardrobes on Body Dissatisfaction and the Risks of Future Eating Disorders.”

Based on the children’s answers to her questionnaire, Jellinek surmised that the Barbie doll lowered their sense of “body esteem” — that is, how comfortable they feel in their own skin. In turn, they ate healthier foods to keep their weight down.

But, Jellinek warned, playing exclusively with skinny dolls like Barbie can give children a false impression that women must be thin. She suggested that children play with a variety of dolls.

Last summer Jellinek wasn’t entirely happy with the results of her study. She thought the children’s familiarity with Barbie and Tracy Turnblad might skew her study. So she sought out dolls that the children would have never seen before, and she found the Star Doll in place of Barbie and a Mimi Bobeck doll instead of Tracy Turnblad, and repeated the study, interviewing more than 100 girls for a second time.

Jellinek said she wanted to thank all those in the community who took part in the study. Without their participation, she said, the study would have been impossible
In addition to the Intel honor, Jellinek was last year named a finalist in the Behavioral Science division at the Long Island Science Congress, an annual competition hosted by the New York State Science Teachers Association since 1950.

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