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Self-esteem components in eating disordered women : body-image disturbance, body dissatisfaction, and cultural and individual body shape ideals McLagan, Beverley May


This study examined the differences between eating disordered and non-eating disordered women on self-deficits, specifically self-esteem, body-image disturbance, and body dissatisfaction. In addition, the existence of a cultural and individual ideal body shape was investigated. It was expected that eating disordered women, compared to non-eating disordered women would exhibit lower self-esteem, higher body dissatisfaction and a greater degree of body overestimation (as measured by the waist). Furthermore, it was expected that eating disordered women would choose a thinner cultural and individual ideal shape than the non-eating disordered women. The subjects were 82 females aged 19 to 40 years. The eating disordered group was recruited from a local support group and subjects met either the DSM-III (1980) criteria for anorexia nervosa, or Russell's (1979) criteria for bulimia nervosa. None of these subjects were hospitalized at the time of testing. Non-eating disordered subjects were nursing students recruited from a local college. The Eating Attitudes Test was administered to these subjects as a screening device to ensure that no subjects were included who had a mild eating disorder. All subjects completed a test package: The Eating Attitudes Test; The Adult Self-Perception Profile; The Eating Disorder Inventory; and a demographic sheet. At a second interview, subjects completed a body-image estimation procedure (Askevold, 1975), the cultural and individual ideal questions (Perceived Body Image Scale, Manley & LePage, 1986), and were weighed and measured for height. A one-way multivariate analysis of variance was computed for measures of self-esteem, body dissatisfaction and body-image disturbance, examining differences between the two groups. Significant differences were found for self-esteem and body dissatisfaction (p < .001), with body-image disturbance approaching significance (p < .06). An investigation of the means revealed that eating.disordered women showed less self-worth, more ineffectiveness and experienced greater body dissatisfaction, than did non-eating disordered women. While body-image disturbance was present in both groups, the eating disordered group showed a slightly greater tendency to overestimate their waist area than did the non-eating disordered group. A Chi square analysis computed for the cultural and individual ideals revealed the eating disordered group chose a significantly thinner cultural ideal shape (p < .05) and individual ideal shape (p < .001) than the non-eating disordered group. Both groups chose a very narrow range of acceptable female shapes to represent the cultural and individual ideal body shapes. Implications for these results and suggestions for future research are discussed.

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