May 2, 2006

Perfectionist fathers

Source: Penn State
Posted: May 1, 2006
Perfectionist fathers can reinforce disordered eating among college-age young people already preoccupied over their physical looks and subject to the demanding expectations of peers and media, according to a Penn State study.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------A survey of 424 college students revealed that, with sons and daughters alike, the father, not the mother, is more likely to create pressures leading college-age children to indulge in erratic eating habits that in turn can lead to anorexia, bulimia and other clinical illnesses, says Dr. Michelle Miller-Day, associate professor of communication arts and sciences.
"Another finding was that food itself was not the issue with students who reported disordered eating behaviors," Miller-Day notes. "Personal perfectionism, reinforced by peer and parental expectations of perfection in combination with the allure of advertising, may cause many young people to feel that they are not in control of their own lives and bodies. Eating then becomes an area in which they DO have a sense of personal control."
"These findings make clear that treatment for maladaptive eating must extend to a patient's relational network and not just focus on the individual patient," she adds. "A specific focus on the patient's history of communication with parents might provide insights into the development of negative eating behaviors. Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa have a very high mortality rate. The mortality rate associated with anorexia is 12 times higher than the death rate of other causes of death for females 15-24 years old."
Miller-Day and Jennifer D. Marks, a doctoral student at Penn State, presented their fdinings in the paper, "Perceptions of Parental Communication Orientation, Perfectionism and Disordered Eating Behaviors of Sons and Daughters," in the spring issue of the journal Health Communication.
In a survey of 424 college students, the Penn State researchers measured the relationship between self- and parentally-prescribed perfectionism and perceptions of personal control and maladaptive eating behavior. Their data revealed that 17 percent of the overall sample participated in maladaptive eating patterns including such behaviors as vomiting because of feeling uncomfortably full.
The Penn State study indicated that father-child communicative interaction marked by high paternal standards might increase young people's risk of unwholesome eating behaviors, in part, perhaps, by socializing the adolescent to be compliant with externally imposed messages of what is considered "ideal." In this way, adolescents may become more vulnerable to media and peer group portrayals of ideal body images.
"Our analysis also suggested that perceived loss of personal control might lead to negative eating patterns," say the researchers. "If an individual feels out of control of his or her life, focusing on food intake may be one of the few arenas where he or she can assert personal control. The more young people felt in control of their lives, particularly when positively reinforced by fathers, the less likely they were to engage in maladaptive eating behaviors."

Boys 'hit by body image pressure'

BBC News

Boys 'hit by body image pressure'

Boys and girls both suffered from body image problems Pressure from peers and the media for boys to fit physical ideals can lead to eating disorders, a study suggests. Magazine images of stick-thin models and comparisons with friends have long been thought to lead some young girls to disorders like anorexia and bulimia.
But a UK study of around 500 teenagers on perceived pressure from parents, siblings, friends and the media suggested boys were affected too.
The research is published in the British Journal of Health Psychology.
For girls, it's about being very thin. For boys this was about being muscular in tone
Dr Emma HalliwellSocial psychologist at the Centre for Appearance Research
The study said: "While there has been considerable attention to factors predicting eating disordered behaviour among adolescent girls, much less has focused on adolescent boys."
This is despite the fact that the levels of body dissatisfaction exhibited by boys and girls with eating disorders are similar, it added.
The authors said they wanted to "address the gap in the literature" and look at what influences eating habits among male and female adolescents.
Lead author Dr Emma Halliwell, social psychologist at the University of the West of England's Centre for Appearance Research, said that while it might be assumed that boys will react similarly to girls when faced with this sort of peer pressure, it was important to show it scientifically.
She said: "Because there are rising levels of eating disorders amongst boys, we need to find out where we can aim our interventions."
The researchers looked at 507 adolescents aged 11-16 from a school in West Sussex. There were 250 girls and 257 boys.
They were asked about their perception of pressures to be thin, how they felt about cultural physical ideals, how they assessed themselves against their peers, and whether they were satisfied with their bodies.
They were also quizzed about their eating behaviour to see if they exhibited any disordered eating. This included extreme dieting, bingeing, vomiting after eating and obsessing about food.
Dr Halliwell said: "We found that the same sorts of factors were important for boys as they were for girls in terms of producing disordered types of eating."
She said boys and girls were both affected by peer pressure and by internalisation - the extent to which the adolescent believes living up to socio-cultural physical ideals is important.
"For girls, it's about being very thin. For boys this was about being muscular in tone," she added.
She said the main difference that emerged was that all girls viewed their bodies negatively when they compared themselves to their friends, while only boys who thought they were very overweight experienced negative associations.
Deanne Jade, of the National Centre for Eating Disorders, was surprised that the research suggested boys were succombing to similar pressures about their body image as girls.
She said: "It's symptomatic not just of body pressures; it surely springs from the fact that in today's visual culture the domains that influence our self worth are increasingly limited.
In addition, "The difference between what's deemed OK and not OK in these areas is very narrow now.
"This means that people are now judging themselves harshly in terms of weight and that seems to be infecting boys too."