The shocking revelation in today’s fast moving global world indicates that one woman out of hundred women has Anorexia, while four in a hundred women have Bulimia. This is so pronounced to young women who are at a greater risk, due to pressures to perform best both academically and socially. As a result, they develop eating disorders oriented towards attaining body image perfection. In striving to achieve this perfect body image, they are exposed to risks of developing of eating disorders. Eating disorders are thought to have the highest mortality rate more than any psychiatric disorder.
Statistically, 6 percent of patients diagnosed with eating disorders usually die due to related causes. Sadly, patients with eating disorders records high suicide rate than that of general population, which is believed to be the major cause of death for individuals with the disordered eating behaviors and attitudes. In the recent reviews of the epidemiological studies of eating disorders indicate an incidence of 8 to 13 percent cases per 100, 000 individuals per year and average prevalence of 0. 3 percent by use restrictive criteria for diagnosis (Carolyn,1999; Regard, 2008).
In regard to eating disorders, there has been various research and studies conducted among young adult women in our society. This studies and researches started since 1980 classification of eating disorder as a psychiatric or (mental) disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (1994). Therefore, this research paper shall seek to examine the impact that cultural norms and expectations have on the value of beauty and attractiveness as risk factors for developing eating disorders in our society today.
INTRODUCTION The introductory chapter shall include background, problem statement, and definition of terms, research questions and limitation of the study. Background The number of eating disorder patients skyrockets each day with 90 percent of this patients being women and 7 percent being men from the age of fourteen to eighteen years (Regard, 2008, p. 161). This is a growing problem in industrialized nations, United States and the entire world today as many millions are affected directly or indirectly.
Evidently, eating disorders occurs when there is a disturbance of eating habits or weight control behavior, which results in a clinically significant impairment of physical health or psychosocial functioning or both (Foulks, 1998, p. 78). According to researchers Franko (1998); Orosan (2005); Reiger (2008), who concur with Center for the Study of Anorexia and Bulimia, (2006), state that eating disorders are categorized into three diagnostic classes. These classes are: Bulimia Nervosa, Anorexia Nervosa and eating disorders not otherwise specified like binge eating disorder or any other disorder that differs from Anorexia or Bulimia.
Research society efforts in relation to eating disorders have focused on the impact of expectations and cultural norms have on the value of beauty and attractiveness. As many perceive, worth and successfulness of a woman is measured by body thinness with other associated attributes like beauty and acceptance by the society. Thus, the aspect of modernity culture placing great emphasis on body image and thinness (Money, 1994, p. 206) can be seen as major cause to development of eating disorders.
As a result therefore, the significance that our societal culture place on the thinness and body image for women has been widely acknowledged as greatly responsible for development of eating disorders. Research conducted by Stanford and McCabe, (2002) has established that many women are dissatisfied with their bodies and have a negative body image due to their perception in relation to cultural standard and values of society. Additionally, women have an opinion as to whether or not they meet this cultural standard relative to the opinions of other members of that culture.
As a result, this internal and external pressure based on the cultural opinions forms a major influence in the development of eating disorders for women. Furthermore, the society’s standards and values cause many women to be dissatisfied with their bodies and to have a negative image about their body (Carolyn,1999, p. 269). This is in term of their perception and society standard in relation to their opinion as to whether or not they meet this standard; and the opinions of other members of their culture as suggested by Malloy and Herzberger (1998).
For instance, in the US today many women who are well rated in Hollywood as best actresses, models, dancers, and singers show hosts and news presenters appear to be all thin. Additionally, many movies, cinemas and shows depict slender women acquiring dates with many successful men easily or depicted as successful career wise; can be attributed to as a major cause to influence young women in society to desire for slim body. Whereby exposing the population to the risk of developing eating disorder. Thus, women evaluate their worth in society through body thinness (Carolyn,1999, p. 273) as core indicator of successfulness and achievement.
From the recent past, many groups of researchers have examined the problem of eating disorders but on a different perspective based on their theoretical orientations. For instance, (Kemper, 1996; McCabe, 2002; Orosan, 2005), conducted their researches guided by concerns that eating disorders develop on the basis of impact of cultural norms, perceptions and expectations have on the value of beauty and attractiveness in western industrial nations. For example, most developed countries and US culture prioritize high standard on the attractiveness and body image as major indicators for person’s success.
Hence, there is rapidity in increased number of women developing eating disorders in attempt to attain this standard. The second category of researchers (Halpern, et al. , 1999; Herzberger, 1998; Gleaves, et al. , 2000), were guided by the notion that body image and weight dissatisfaction is concerned with development of the eating disorders among women. Media influence further activates the seriousness of the body image and weight dissatisfaction factor in developing disordered eating behavior and attitudes.
For instance; movies, magazines graphics and television programs have created an ideal of body images of thin, flawless bodies that is difficult to attain for the majority of population in world. As a result, failure to achieve this ideal body weight or image causes many young women to be concerned and attempt to gain control and order in their lives through diet and exercises. To this effect, Reiger, (2008) reiterates that “unless our media network in US changes the model’s beauty outlook in their adverts; then, fight against disorders of eating are in vain”
The third category of studies by Orosan, (2008); Reiger, (2005); and Stanford, (2002); prove to be more complex, since they study perceptions between individual and those of other sex in societal set up. Unfortunately, many women falsely assume that men prefer and desire women with slim body sizes than those with large ones. In this context therefore, other sex preference and opposite sex opinions serve as important factors in perception of female or male body image. Additionally, these studies add emphasis to increased body dissatisfaction as risk factor for developing eating disorders.
Most recent research by researchers like Nielsen, (2000); Arriaza & Mann, (2001); Topping, (2001); conducted their studies guided by the theoretical orientation of ethnic groups to study the prevalence of eating disordered behaviors and attitudes, body image concerns and eating disorders. For instance the study with Asian-American women was conducted by Kambara et al, (1998), African-American women by Nielsen, (2000), Asian by Tsai et al. , (2003) and white (Cachelin et al. , 2001).
These studies indicated prevalence of eating disordered behaviors and attitudes, body image concerns and eating disorders among varied ethnic groups. The conclusion reached after study conducted with samples of all these ethnically diverse groups, depicted they exhibit eating disordered behaviors and attitudes, body image concerns and eating disorders and not immune. In addition to this, these studies revealed that women who associate, identify with and interact with white majority culture are more likely to adopt whites’ attitudes about dieting excessively and being extremely thin like African American women.
Therefore, may be at risk for developing disordered eating behavior and attitudes. On the other hand, ethnic identity as a function of ethnic group has been considered for a better part of some researches. There are suggestions that process of choosing the culture or group to identify with, involves selecting best and desirable qualities to person’s environment. Whereby, this is an important process of experiencing other cultures and self examination to a person identity development and greatly influence formation of a positive view about oneself.
From initial work of identity development by Eriksson, (1959a), give today’s studies a theoretical foundation. More to this is examined correlation between cultural factors like ethnic identity and eating disorder prevalence (Harris, 1997). Who emphasize that identity confusion; such that when individual definition of beauty which initially was guided by a woman’s culture of origin differs from that of another culture may become problematic to the women and expose her to risk of developing eating disorders.
Empirically, increased exposure of African-American women to USA (white) values in relation to body weight and image put ethnic minority (Black women) at a greater risk for developing disordered eating behavior and attitudes. Therefore, this research paper shall greatly dwell on examine the impact that cultural norms and expectations have on the value of beauty and attractiveness as risk factors for developing eating disorders in our society today. Statement of the Problem Eating disorders pose a great challenge to today’s society, especially to women and their families.
This is dominant to young adult women population within this fast moving and globalized world. Eating disorders are thought to have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. Statistically, 6 percent of patients diagnosed with eating disorders usually die due to related causes. Sadly, patients with eating disorders records high suicide rate than that of general population, which is believed to be the major cause of death for individuals with the disordered eating behaviors and attitudes.
To reiterate the adverse affect of these disorders to our intellectual society today, a British senior university lecturer Rosemary Pope who had a professional background in health and a PhD holder in psychology, died from anorexia in March 2008 (BBC NEWS, 22nd April 2008, Professor, 49, died from anorexia). Despite this case, the recent reviews of the epidemiological studies of eating disorders indicate an incidence of 8 to 13 cases per 10, 000 individuals per year and average prevalence of 0.
3 percent when using restrictive criteria for diagnosis. As a matter of fact, when young women experience emotional dilemmas following body image dissatisfaction, it damagers their confidence to perform vital tasks in the society as a result of low self esteem, consequences on psychodynamic processes and related problems. Which truly relates to Reiger’s (2008) statement; “Eating disorders have devastating consequences on the psychodynamic processes that affect individual and society”
For all these reasons, it is therefore a daunting challenge to researchers in this field to redefine the focus of the past research in order to uncover the mystery that lies beneath these disorders that is sweeping away our society (Money, 1994, p. 351). In this regard, this research paper shall highlight the problems and challenges of eating disorders to focus on if we are to find a way out of it. In this perspective, the research topic is a timely one that seeks to explore; categorization, causes, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and prevention of eating disorders in a psychological dimension.
It is my hope that this analysis of all the combined research may help provide insight for further research into the problem that engulfs our precious society today. Definition of Terms Definition of terms is based on the study scope of mental disorders and terms operationalized in this research paper. There are three diagnosable disorders that are classified as eating disorders: Bulimia Nervosa, Anorexia Nervosa and NOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified (Lask, Bryant, 2000, p. 43). Thus, the definitions of all these disorders and other relevant terms which are operationalized in the paper are as follows;
Anorexia Nervosa: This is eating disorder characterized by a refusal to maintain a minimally normal bodyweight by a patient through starving, excessive exercises Body Image: Body Image describes the extent to which one’s thoughts, actions and attention focus on looks or reliance on physical appearance to define one’s sense of self (Reiger, 1998, p. 25). Body Dissatisfaction: This is dissatisfaction with overall shape and size of body parts or regions like buttocks, thighs, hips and Stomach (Money, 1994, p. 65). Bulimia Nervosa:
An eating disorder that is characterized by repeated episodes of binge eating by a patient which is followed by inappropriate compensatory behaviors such as laxative misuse or self-induced vomiting. Binge eating: Binge eating refers to a habit of eating large quantities of food in a short period of time. Drive for Thinness: This is fear of gaining body weight or intense drive to be thinner or preoccupation with body weight (Schwartz, 1987, p. 162). Ethnic identity: This is the level of identification with group of reference or an ethnic group.
Eating disorders: These are disorders characterized by disturbances in eating behavior such as bingeing and purging, starvation and excessive exercise (Foulks, 1998, p. 78). Gender: This is described as construction of role and identity socially rather than sexually; the conviction of maleness and femaleness; and cultural construction of masculine and feminine. Purging: Purging refers to the use of vomiting or other techniques to empty the stomach off food. Research Questions The research shall be guided by the following study questions which are as follows;
1. is there relationship between ethnic identity, attitudes and behaviors to development of eating disorders? 2. Does eating disorder behavior and attitudes vary according to social-economic status? 3. Is there relationship between perception of ideal body size and shape with eating disorder attitudes and behaviors? 4. Does age factor cause difference in developing and prevalence of eating disorders behaviors? 5. Are there any differences in eating disorders behavior and attitudes on racial basis?
Limitation of the Study Research limitations are central consideration in conducting research. In this perspective, this research is limited by the following: Respondentat’s: Research’s success depends on the respondent, for this case, research shall be intrinsically limited by the respondent participation and responses (Franko, 2008, pp. 251). This is because respondents-based factors influence the answers to research questions, henceforth the credibility, reliability and validity of the research outcomes.
Thus, factors such as social and economic status, education, age, gender, race or ethnicity, religion and parental status: education, occupation and economic status may alter responses in a study sample, henceforth affecting outcomes. Researchers: Researcher’s role in the research is crucial. In the sense that, methodology implementation entirely depends on the researcher. Therefore, failure to manage and balance variables in the study well, it may result to errors in the final outcome of the study.
To note on this fact, no man is perfect to avoid errors or mistakes but can minimize the degree of mistakes. In this regard, study sample selection predetermines the outcome of the study. Therefore, effective and proper sample selection is desired but too far out of reach for researchers. For instance, this study shall be based on the selected group findings then generalized to the entire women population. These findings may not reflect the whole picture, since human beings are diverse and exposed to different risk factors in terms of environment, perception, attitudes and behavior.
Methodological and technical limitations: The methodological designs which are used to measure construct of the eating disorders are lacking in some aspect to adequately give a reliable, credible and valid measure for these constructs. For instance, the measure of the Body Dissatisfaction subscale, Drive for Thinness subscale and Contour Drawing Rating Scale rely on the co-relational studies which are limited to the items and persons involved to give their opinions (Franko, 2008, pp. 141).