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Children's Self-Perceptions Improve More With Contact Lenses vs. Glasses

Three-year study of children ages 8-11 years shows contact lens wearers feel better about their Physical Appearance, Athletic Competence, and Social Acceptance

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., March 2 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Contact lenses provide value-added benefits to children beyond simply correcting their nearsightedness -- significantly improving how they feel about their physical appearance, acceptance among friends, and ability to play sports. Data from a three-year multi-site study assessing the effects of glasses and contact lenses on the self-perception of nearsighted children ages eight to 11 years, further reveals that for children who initially dislike wearing glasses, contact lenses also make them more confident about their academic performance.

"Many studies have examined the effect of spectacle wear on self-perception and the perception of others, but the majority of this research has been conducted on adults," explains Jeffrey J. Walline, O.D., Ph.D., Ohio State University College of Optometry and leader of the Adolescent and Child Health Initiative to Encourage Vision Empowerment (ACHIEVE) Study, the largest randomized trial of its kind. "Research shows spectacles to be associated with poorer self-perception in adults if they were first worn during childhood. The ACHIEVE Study was designed to determine whether children who were dissatisfied with spectacle wear would benefit more from contact lenses than children who did not mind wearing glasses." Findings appear in the March issue of Optometry & Vision Science, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Optometry.

A total of 484 eight-to-11-year-old nearsighted children participated in the randomized, single-masked trial conducted from September 2003 to October 2007 at five clinical centers in the United States. Children were randomly assigned to wear spectacles (n=237) or contact lenses (n=247) for three years. Children randomly assigned to wear contact lenses were provided the option of daily disposable or 2-week disposable lenses, and they chose daily disposable contact lenses 93.3% of the time.

Researchers measured outcomes using the Self-Perception Profile for Children scale, a measurement tool employed in numerous studies in the development psychology and social development literature. The scale consists of five domain-specific sub-scales (Scholastic Competence, Social Acceptance, Athletic Competence, Physical Appearance, Behavioral Conduct) and one global measure of self-worth.

Change in Global Self-Worth was statistically significant over three years for both treatment groups, but the change was not significantly different between contact lens wearers and spectacle wearers.

"Global self-worth is a multi-dimensional assessment of one's value to society and it is difficult to change with a treatment that is not directly attempting to alter global self-perception, such as contact lenses," explains study co-author Mitchell J. Prinstein, Ph.D., Professor and Director of Clinical Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

However, while contact lenses do not affect global self-worth, they do affect children's self-perceptions in several other areas, with Physical Appearance, Athletic Competence, and Social Acceptance scores all significantly greater for contact lens wearers than spectacle wearers at the end of the study. Scholastic Competence was also higher for contact lens wearers, but only for those who were not satisfied with spectacle wear initially.

Physical Appearance - The change in the Physical Appearance scale score was significantly greater for contact lens wearers than for spectacle wearers, regardless of whether or not participants initially liked to wear spectacles. "Published studies have shown glasses to be associated with negative attributes in areas of self-perception and attractiveness, so it was not surprising that children's physical appearance self-perception benefits from contact lens wear," says Dr. Prinstein. In a recent study of 8 to 12 year old children and 13 to 17 year old teens, improved appearance was reported by both age groups as one of the largest benefits of contact lens wear.

Athletic Competence - Averaged over three years, contact lenses improved children's perceptions of their athletic competence. "These findings are consistent with the growing body of research in this area demonstrating that contact lenses significantly improve how children feel about participating in activities such as sports," notes Dr. Walline. "Anecdotally, children may participate in recreational activities without vision correction rather than risk breaking their glasses. Unlike glasses, contact lenses provide clear vision without impairing peripheral vision, so children may feel that their athletic competence improves because they can see more clearly while participating in recreational activities."

Scholastic Competence - Children's scholastic competence self-perceptions were affected by contact lens wear more if they initially disliked wearing glasses than if they were satisfied with spectacle wear. "It's likely that children who are dissatisfied with glasses chose to remove their vision correction more often than children who do not mind wearing them," suggests Dr. Walline. "On the other hand, contact lens wearers are unlikely to remove their vision correction during the day, resulting in clear vision for distance classroom activities such as seeing the blackboard."

Social Acceptance - Throughout the study, social acceptance self-perceptions were stable for spectacle wearers, but they increased for contact lens wearers. This finding is somewhat consistent with a cross-sectional study that found that girls without vision correction reported greater social acceptance self-perceptions than girls wearing glasses. "Spectacle wear has been associated with shyness, introversion, and lower social assertiveness," says Dr. Prinstein. "These stereotypes may play a role in children's self-perceptions, especially for girls."

"The growing body of research in this area suggests that parents and eye care practitioners should look beyond the visual benefits of contact lens wear when choosing the most appropriate vision correction modality for children as young as 8 years of age," says Dr. Walline.

The study was supported by funding from Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. and The Vision Care Institute(TM), LLC, a Johnson & Johnson Company.

SOURCE Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc.
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