Disordered Eating in College Students: The Roles Term Paper

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Disordered Eating in College Students: The Roles of Attachment to Fathers, Depression and Self-Esteem

The objective of this work is to write a research proposal investigating the attachment process in eating disorders, particularly among college women. This work intends to examine the number of college women with subclinical eating disorders in contrast to those with full-blown eating disorders. This work will include background information on attachment theory and processes in general and in eating disorders. This work will focus on the father-daughter attachment processes and the roles of depression and self-esteem.

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Eating disorders among college students have been noted to be more prevalent than ever in today's colleges. Eating disorders include those of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and other various eating disorders. The research of Cheng (2006) informs that eating disorders became common on college campuses beginning in the 1980s are still prevalent today. Estimates stated by researchers are that approximately 64% of college females have some type of eating disorder. External pressure from the media, peers, parents, and self-imposed standards are experienced by women in college. This is a time in their life when they are attempting to become autonomous intellectually and yet are still within the framework of society with its expectations for specific feminine type behavior and presentation of the female self in social settings. For the female in college whose mother had a poor self-image it has been shown in research to be very likely that the college female will have some affectation of these fears in her own life and personality composition. For the college female from a home where a father has had a great deal to say negatively concerning the weight of females in the household or otherwise in the environment, there exists fears of becoming overweight like those her father has had much negative to say about. Today's magazines and television shows include a constant onslaught of advertising for beauty products and weight loss products.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Disordered Eating in College Students: The Roles Assignment

It has been widely acknowledged among clinical therapists that healthy development of self-esteem requires certain basic requirements be met first such as the requirement of safety and security and these two components of the individual's personality are believed by theorists to develop during infanthood and to be an evolving developmental function of the individual. This development follows through several stages in the individual's development until the final stage in late adolescence. The individual who is in the stage of late adolescence is the individual who is beginning to enter a stage of healthy psychological separation from their parents, that is if the individual is developing according to normal development for this age individual. Parental attachments which have not been appropriately formed during the individuals infant age, childhood, adolescence, and late adolescence result in certain psychological disorders in individuals which develop as 'coping mechanisms' as a method used by the individual in dealing with underlying issues. Failure to have a healthy attachment to the father for the young woman in college is likely to result in depression, a poor-self-image, low self-confidence, and result as well in the young woman having great difficulty with autonomous independence and self-direction. The work of Fairburn and Harrison (2003) relates that eating disorders are presently divided into three diagnostic categories: (1) anorexia nervosa; (2) bulimia nervosa; and (3) eating disorders. Cheng (2006) relates that since the 1980s "prevalence research has shown that eating disturbance is common on college campuses citing Drewnowki, Yee and Krahn (1998) and states that as many as "64% of college females exhibit some form of problematic eating behavior." It has been noted by Malloy and Herzberger (1998) that cultural standards are causative in women being dissatisfied with their bodies and have a negative body image based upon whether in their opinion as well as the opinion of their family members meet the standard which they perceive is the one to be align toward achieving. External pressures on women's perception of their own bodies have been widely acknowledged among professionals to have a great impact on the development of eating disorders. Malloy and Herzberger (1998) further noted that the ideal of beauty in the United States tends to have a negative effect on females in the U.S. through creation of a dilemma that holds the ideal of physical attractiveness relative to how thin one is. Individuals daily and continuously have images of thin and flawless bodies thrust upon them as the standards by which they should measure themselves. Females on college campuses are at a great risk for development of eating disorders due to the additional pressures for them to achieve both academically and socially. Within the framework of these realms of academic and social achievement is a strong emphasis on physical appearance. The work of Hart and Kenney (1997) states that this is associated with self-reports of various eating disorders. Root (2001) relates that eating disorders are often developed by women in college out of an intense pressure placed upon them to achieve combined with attempting to strive toward perfection. These women, finding perfection unattainable, often use dieting and exercise as an attempt of gaining control and order over their lives. This occurring disorder among college women is not bound to race or ethnicity, as reported in Crago, Shisslak and Estes (1996) who state that regardless of the woman's ethnic background, for women who interact with the majority white culture and whom are likely to adopt the attitudes of this culture. This is true as well with the perception of the ideal of being extremely think and perpetual dieting and ultimately placing themselves at risk for development of some type of eating disorder. The work of Barrocas (2006) entitled: Adolescent Attachment to Parents and Peers" relates that attachment bonds "exist in relationships across the lifespan. Adolescence may be a particularly crucial period for attachments relations." (2006) the work of Easterbrooks (1989) and others suggest that studies "point toward strong concordance between attachment to mother and father and other suggest that the mother-infant and father-infant attachment relationships are independent" such as cited in the work of Main and Weston (1981). Barrocas states: "One explanation for the strong rate of concordance is that parents who are more similar in childbearing approaches, such as sensitivity and availability, will have children who are attached similarly to both parents. The work of Main and Weston (1981) states findings that mother-infant and father-infant attachment were not dependent on one another. The importance of viewing mother-child and father-child relationship separate from one another, specifically during adolescence was explored by Doherty and Beaton (2004) since both relationships have different qualities that may affect later outcomes in life. Children experience their relationships with their mother and fathers in different ways. The work of Leaper (2000) states findings that children playing with either the mother or father differed depending upon the gender of the parent and child which indicates that both parents contribute differently to the development of the child. Also indicated is the different influence that the maternal and paternal parent has on the social outcomes of the child in terms of the child's development. There does appear to be a physical cause for eating disorders although those physical causes are psychologically and emotionally related to parental attachment according to the work of Fletcher (2005) who states: "Male and female rats exposed to maternal care show changes in the density of receptors in amygdale as adults. As adults, nurtured female pups had higher levels of oxytocin receptors." These results are stated to be: "suggestive of a neurological component influencing father's caring behaviors with their infants.... Probably the most important lessons to be drawn from the recent integration of neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry, physiology and anthropology is that male and female brains have significant differences in architecture and functioning and so mothers and fathers' parenting interactions may well show significant differences as a consequence of sex-specific, contrasting neuroanatomical features. Father's maleness ensures that they are not simply 'mother substitutes' when they are caring for and interacting with their infants." (Fletcher, 2005)


The work of Williams and Kelly (2005) made a comparison of mother-adolescent and father-adolescent relationships and state findings that the father-adolescent attachment relationship was related to behavioral problems among adolescents. Few studies have been conducted that examine the attachment of female children to the father or the impacts or effects of a lack of a healthy attachment to the father. Attachment theory is a theory of personality development first conceived of by John Bowlby in explaining a function of the child-caregiver relationship, which is a relationship that evolves. "Gene survival was thought to be enhanced by the selection of favored attachment behaviors that increased child-caregiver proximity, leader to the greater likelihood of protection for the child." (Ma, 2007) a great amount of empirical research in a variety of settings supports attachment theory.

David Howe writes in the work entitled: "Attachment Theory, Child Maltreatment and Family Support" that "The quality and character of children's close relationships is proving to be the central concept linking the myriad of factors… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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