A vast amount of research has been done on the subject of eating disorders and their causes. Many eating disorders have been proven to emerge during adolescence and often serve as the foundations to more serious problems like anorexia and bulimia. This essay will explore the development of eating disorders in adolescent girls. It will show that these disorders are closely connected to the biological and psychosocial changes that occur during the adolescent period.
Many teen girls suffer with anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder in which girls use starvation diets to try to lose weight. They starve themselves down to skeletal thinness yet still think that they are overweight. Bulimia, meanwhile, is a disorder in which young women binge on food and then force themselves to vomit. They also often use laxatives to get food out of their system. All of these young women who suffer from this problem are considered to suffer from a psychiatric disorder. While the causes are debatable, one thing that is clear is that these young women have a distorted body image. (Wolf, pp.214-216)
What is extremely alarming is that the current thin ideal for women in Western society, which is unattainable for all but a very small percentage of the population, is compounding this problem. It is a very serious issue when someone's body shape is determined by genetic disposition and yet they try to alter it to fit some kind of imaginary ideal of how a person should look.
Thus, one of the most serious problems is that female nature is not what society says it should be. Some researchers theorize that anorexia is a young woman's way of canceling puberty. Since they lack body fat, anorexics don't get their periods and often lose their sexual characteristics such as public hair. They remain, in other words, little girls. There is also the complex issue of women feeling that by having an eating disorder they are finally in control of something in their life. This may sound strange, but much research has shown that women who have been abused or neglected in their childhoods develop these problems of control. (Attie and Brooks-Gun, pp.70-71).
Studies suggest that eating disorders often begin in early to mid-adolescence. They are directly connected to pubertal maturation and the increases in body fat that occurs during this phase. These biological changes are associated with increased dieting and unhealthy behaviours in early adolescence. This problem is aggravated by various problems, including negative body image, which has a close association with weight, perfectionism and depression. Family and socialization also play significant roles. It has been found, for instance, that mothers with girls with eating disorders are often critical of their daughters' weight and physical appearance. Families with adolescents who have eating disorders are also often characterized by enmeshment, overprotectiveness, rigidity and lack of conflict resolution. This is connected to the "control" issue mentioned previously. Interestingly enough, girls who are more involved in mixed-sex social activities and dating boys are also more likely to exhibit disordered eating tendencies. (Attie and Brooks-Gun, pp.70-71).
Thus, eating disorders must be studied in the context of what certain individuals face during their developmental stage, or what they may have suffered in childhood. In general, a combination of the pubertal phase of the female body, the loosening of the individual's ties to parents, and the development of a stable and cohesive personality structure play profound roles in this process. Psychologists Ilana Attie and J. Brooks-Gun have done some work on this issue. They considered eating disorders within the so-called "developmental" perspective, which examines the emergence of eating disorders in adolescent girls as a function of pubertal growth, body image, personality development, and family relationships. The two psychologists examined...