Developmental Psychology Body Image Term Paper

Pages: 20 (5850 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 29  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Psychology


Several psychiatric disorders might lead to increasing risk of eating disorder, including neurotic and depressive symptoms, bipolar disorder, manic depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive personality characteristics, history of sexual abuse, severe family problems, extreme social pressures, insecurity, being controlled by others, distorted body image, etc. (NIMH, 2001). In addition, extreme negative dissatisfaction with their bodies may be a factor in its existence, even though not a predictor of eating disorders (Leon, Fulkerson, Perry, & Cudeck, 1993).

According to Johnson, Cohen, Kotler, Kasen, & Brook (2002), teenagers diagnosed with depression might be at a higher risk for the onset of eating disorders during middle adolescence and early adulthood, because eating disorders and depression in children and adolescents are closely related. Nevertheless, disruptive disorders might also contribute to recurrent fluctuations in teenagers' weight. In other words, most teenagers will have some fluctuations in their weight when they are happy or when they are depressed. These are normal and temporary, but eating disorders go well beyond that.

Klump, McGue, & Iacono (2002) state that genetic predisposition to be nervous, anxious, and pessimistic could cause girls to focus on their bodies during adolescence and puberty more than girls with no predisposition to worrying about their body image. Girls prone to worries do not know how to deal with stressors, leading them to anxiety symptoms, and possibly disordered eating behaviors (Leon, et al., 1993). Another group consists of perfectionists, model daughters, high achievers, bright dutiful, with low self-esteem, irrationally believing to be fat (Leon et al., 1993).Download full
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Developmental Psychology Body Image, Body Assignment

Nowadays the number of girls experiencing menarche at a younger age has increased, and numerous theories have risen suggesting the correlation between early menarche and increased risks for the development of eating disorders (APA, 2003). Contrarily, Stice, Presness, & Bearman (2001) report surprising findings that state early menarche does not offer increased risk for eating disorders. It is clear from the disagreement that there is no definite understanding whether early menarche is related to eating disorders in general, or whether other genetic factors and environment issues also play a part to tie early menarche to eating disorders in some girls.

Psychodynamic literature describes three deficits that might predispose to anorexia nervosa. First, clients having difficulties with separation and autonomy usually had enmeshed relationships with parents. Second, clients presented affected regulation involving direct expression of anger and aggression. Finally, clients negotiated their psychosexual development. Those deficits might increase vulnerability to cultural pressures for achieving a stereotypical (i.e. thin) body image possibly leading to eating disorders.

Many cultures have emphasized and associate female beauty to thinness, and emphasizing that people should be unhappy with their body image if it does not conform exactly to what the 'perfect' image is. Those thoughts permeate society, implying that to be attractive women must be thin. Society and the media have placed great pressure, through movies, television shows, and commercials, by demanding women to be thin. Therefore, female self-concept and achievement aspirations are greatly influenced by the subtle implications of sex role stereotyping in television commercials, including unchallenged messages about attractiveness (Keel & Klump, 2003).

Normally, eating disorders are associated with adolescence. However in today's society children have been exposed to an extremely thin standard of attractiveness. Since television represents a major source of influence and information in the lives of children, they are particularly influenced and usually accept what happens on television as reality (Johnson, Cohen, Kotler, Kasen, & Brook, 2002). Many children start disliking their bodies even before they start school. Stice, Presnell, & Bearman (2001) state that in the last decade, children as young as eight have been treated for eating disorders, and more than half of the girls in first through fifth grades claimed to have dieted at some point. One of the main causes of treatment delay is related to the inability of many pediatricians to recognize the beginning stages of an eating disorder (Bohen, 2001).

Professionals can sponsor health education as an active role in minimizing media influence by showing young adults how to lose weight properly, what their healthy weight should be, and how to feel better about their body image. Parents may promote an atmosphere of acceptance leading to a comfortable balance between the adolescent desire to be feminine and their need to become competent and autonomous. Parents should act as role modes displaying positive coping skills and healthy weight understanding, by conveying that appearance is not the most important part of someone's identity. Beauty comes form the inside and a person's personality and character are valuable.

Another major societal influence lies on the obsession with obesity and its risks by causing media to promote all kinds of dieting. Although obesity leads to dangerous health factors, the reverse is as much dangerous (Keel & Klump, 2003).

Family factors might be a good predictor in distinguishing eating disorder girls from the ones without disordered eating. An interesting finding is reported in Pike & Rodin (1991), describing that mothers who are dissatisfied with their family system functioning as more prone to have daughters with eating disorders. Those mothers think that their daughters should lose weight and many times find their daughters less attractive than the girls own judgments.

In a study conducted by Mallinckrodt, McCreary, & Robertson (1995), those reporting weak bonds with their mothers and those with the lowest levels of social competencies, presented higher number of eating disorder symptoms. Furthermore, victims of incest showed a higher eating disorder rate (47%) than sexually abused clients (22%). Most reports from incest survivors describe their family environment as less cohesive and expressive, with both parents less emotionally expressive, more intrusively, controlling, and more conflictual.

Sands (2003) describe in his study that females suffering from anorexia present an irrational fear of their bodies, even more than food. Likewise, they are afraid of their desires for emotional nourishment as much as they are afraid of food. It is suggested that this behavior is due to a need to be in control and food would be the only thing they could actually control. Moreover, it is important to access not only eating disorder symptoms, but also the presence of concomitant self-harm behavior, since they co-exist in many cases (Sansone & Levitt, 2002).

Treatment options consist of complete assessment with medical evaluation to rule out other physical conditions, and mental health assessment preferably by an eating disorder expert. The most effective proved treatment is a team approach including psychotherapy, individual, family, group therapy, and support groups couple with medical treatment from a primary care physician (PCP) or from specialists due to medical complications (Les Parrott III, 1997). Moreover, nutritionists and psychopharmacological interventions such as psychotropics and mood stabilizers used under careful supervision were found to be beneficial in several cases (Maine, 2000). Some family approaches used with relative success in treating eating disorders include Carl Whitaker symbolic-experiential therapy and Minuchin's family-focused structural approach (Gurman & Kniskern, 1991).

Cognitive therapy remains the strongest psychosocial intervention and is the preferable therapy treatment modality. Because of the absolutes, human beings demand perfection and whatever does not fit this irrational thought will generate frustration and sorrow (Kirkpatrick & Caldwell, 2001). According to cognitive theory, it is necessary to dispute irrational beliefs in order to transform them into more realists ones, bringing fulfillment (Corey, 1996). The goal of this treatment modality is to minimize emotional disturbances as well as self-defeating behavior. This is usually done by the acquisition of a more realistic philosophy of life.

Some other goals of Cognitive therapy are reducing the tendency of blaming self and others, and increasing self-interest, self-direction, self-acceptance, social interest, self-responsibility for disturbance, tolerance, flexibility, commitment, risk taking, acceptance of uncertainty, and higher tolerance of frustration (Galotti, 1994). Medications to aid in minimizing self-destruction behavior might be a part of the treatment, including atypical antipsychotic in conjunction with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and/or anticonvulsant (APA, 2003).

Cognitive therapists display full acceptance and tolerance towards client, though confronting nonsensical thinking, by showing client irrational thoughts, taking client beyond awareness, and by demonstrating how their illogical thinking keeps disturbances active (Kaplan & Carter, 1995). Furthermore, therapists should help client to modify thinking, abandon irrational ideas, and to challenge the development of a more rational philosophy of life, in order to avoid future irrationality (Wilson & Fairburn, 1993).

Cognitive therapists use a lot of modeling and teach new methods for changing thinking, feelings and behavior; however therapists do not control clients. Therapists are also concerned about establishing a supportive, helpful facilitative alliance, working in collaboration with clients, knowing that empathy, genuineness, and unconditional positive regard help to build up rapport with clients, and increase effectiveness of therapy. Furthermore, therapists should promote free expression of individual's perspectives (Granvold, 1994). Client role is to accept own beliefs as the cause for own disturbances, and work towards changing the behaviors into new ones that are more acceptable. In cases of eating disorders, the faulty behavior is related to unrealistic assessment of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Developmental Psychology Body Image" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Developmental Psychology Body Image.  (2004, December 5).  Retrieved January 18, 2022, from

MLA Format

"Developmental Psychology Body Image."  5 December 2004.  Web.  18 January 2022. <>.

Chicago Style

"Developmental Psychology Body Image."  December 5, 2004.  Accessed January 18, 2022.