March 7, 2014
Sociocultural Factors that Lead to Eating Disorders in Young Women
According to the DSM-5, anorexia nervosa is characterized by “distorted body image and excessive dieting that leads to severe weight loss with a pathological fear of becoming fat” while bulimia nervosa is characterized by “frequent episodes of binge eating followed by inappropriate behaviors such as self-induced vomiting to avoid weight gain” (DSM-5, American Psychiatric Association, 2013). These two disorders most often affect adolescent girls and young women. There are many factors that can cause body dysmorphia such as behavioral, genetic, and sociocultural. These factors can ultimately onset eating disorders. According to a study by Emily A. Young, James R. Clopton, and M. Kathryn Bleckley at Texas Tech University claim factors associated to these eating disorders include “social pressure from family, peers, and the media and individual variables, such as self-esteem, perfectionism, body dissatisfaction, and depression” (Young, Clopton, Bleckley, 2004).
The purpose of the study mentioned above is to assess the individual variables to see if they are positively correlated with bulimia nervosa. The participants used in this study were 193 female undergraduate students at Texas Tech University. These students were also enrolled in an introductory psychology class. They used a variety of questionnaires used to assess feelings about negativity towards body shape; binge eating and compensatory behaviors; depressed mood, sleep patterns, feelings of guilt and hopelessness; influences from peers and/or the media; positive feelings about themselves; and questions regarding perfectionism. A weight ratio (reported weight divided by the standard weight to height ratio) was also calculated to find differences in weight due to height. The researchers found that of the 13 total variables included in this study, “only body dissatisfaction, peer influence, depression, parental expectations, and family influences contributed significantly to the prediction of bulimic behavior” (Young et al, 2004). They also found that higher levels of parental expectations might have a greater effect on bulimic behaviors when peer stressors are also involved. There are a few ways in which family members can contribute to eating disorders such as, “communicating to young women that thinness is highly valued, modeling problematic eating behaviors, and criticizing weight and body shape”. Finally, Young concluded that “bulimic behavior may be most pronounced in women who report both high levels of peer pressure to be thin and high levels of socially prescribed perfectionism- belief one must meet the excessively high expectations of others” (Young et al, 2004).
A larger sample was used by The McKnight Investigators to assess the risk factors for the onset of eating disorders in adolescent girls. This is a longitudinal study that used 1,103 girls in school...