CitationPesa, Jacqueline A. & Turner, Lori W. (1999). Ethnic and racial differences in weight-loss behaviors among female adolescents: Results from a national survey. American Journal of Health Studies. vol. 15 (1) pp. 14-21
AbstractThe study examined the weight-loss behaviors of Anglo-American, AfricanAmerican, Latina American, Native American, and Asian American female adolescents who participated in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health. Subjects were asked if they were trying to lose weight and which methods they were using to lose weight. Descriptive statistics were used to present the differences between groups with respect to these variables. The results are consistent with other studies that have shown Anglo-American female adolescents to be more involved in weight-loss behaviors compared with African-Americans. No differences were found between Anglo-Americans and Native Americans, Latina Americans, and Asian Americans, respectively. The study supports the need to direct educational and preventive efforts towards minority adolescents, who apparently are not immune to engaging in weight-loss behaviors that may be detrimental to health. [Am ]Health Studies 1999; 15(l);14-21]
Weight-loss behaviors are pervasive among female adolescents. Recent findings from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBS) revealed that 60% of female adolescent were attempting weightloss at the time of the survey (Kann, Warren, Harris, Collins, Williams et al., 1996). In contrast, only 24% of males were trying to lose weight. Weight concerns and dieting behaviors have become so common among females that the phenomena have been dubbed by experts as a "normative discontent" without reference to actual medical need for weight-loss (Rodin, Silberstein, & Striegel-Moore, 1985).
Until recently, weight-loss behaviors were thought to be isolated within AngloAmerican, middle-to-upper class factions. Exploration into the prevalence of these behaviors among minority adolescents has revealed strikingly similar patterns across ethnic boundaries (Kann et al., 1995; Smith & Krejci, 1991; Story, French, Resnick, & Blum, 1995). It had long been assumed that the standards of ideal body size and beauty established by the majority culture did not impact minorities (Massara & Stunkard, 1979). Not only is it apparent that minority females are experiencing societally-induced pressures to conform to ideal body weight similar to that of the Anglo-Americans, the risk may in fact be heightened due to economic and sociopolitical factors (Root, 1990). Overweight adolescents are more likely to engage in weight-loss behaviors and be dissatisfied with their weight than non-overweight controls (Neumark-Sztainer, Story, French, Hannan, Resnick et al., 1997). The impetus for weight-loss among overweight adolescents is actual weight, whereas the impetus among normal and underweight adolescents is perceived weight; i.e., bodyimage. The developmental changes (increase in adipose tissue) that accompany puberty have been implicated as a trigger for bodyimage disturbances, weight-loss attempts, and pathological eating disorders (Dorn, Crockett, & Petersen, 1988; Striegel-Moore, Silberstein, & Rodin, 1986). In a culture that views a thin, androgynous physique as ideal, the female adolescent who experiences physical changes that place her farther from this ideal may attempt to gain some mastery over these events by trying to lose weight. The repercussions of calorie restriction and weight-loss during this critical growth period may contribute to nutritional deficiencies that could affect cognitive and physical performance and normal development (Attie, Brooks-Gunn & Petersen, 1990).
In the present study, overweight, normal weight, and underweight female adolescents of different ethnic groups were compared with respect to weight-loss behaviors. It is expected that the majority of overweight subjects will be attempting weightloss, regardless of ethnicity. Drawing from the literature, African-American subjects should be less likely to be attempting weightloss as compared to Anglo-Americans. Additionally, ethnic differences in the methods used to lose weight will be examined.
Reference TypeJournal Article
Journal TitleAmerican Journal of Health Studies
Author(s)Pesa, Jacqueline A.
Turner, Lori W.