Wong, Ka-Leung (2014). Social and psychological factors contributing to eating disorders among Caucasian, African American, Asian American, and Hispanic American women.
Eating disorders are severe and can be fatal psychiatric illnesses, which cause chronic health issues. In the United States, eating disordered behaviors occur mainly in the Caucasian female population, however, recent research findings suggest that eating disorder behaviors have been on the rise in different ethnic groups, and certain problematic eating behaviors are even more prevalent in minorities than in the Caucasian population. The present study targets this phenomenon to examine the correlation between social factors: parents income and education, depressive symptoms, levels of self-esteem, previous traumatic experiences (physical and sexual abuse), and eating disorder behaviors. The current study utilizes archival data from the ADD-Health Survey conducted by the University of North Carolina, which was comprised of a large nation wide sample, including Caucasian, African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic-American and other minority groups. The current study's data was analyzed using structural equation modeling (SEM) and pathway analysis to investigate the predictive factors of eating disorder behaviors among women in four ethnic groups: Caucasian, African-American, Asian-American, and Hispanic-American. The results indicate that high self-esteem is a significant protective factor in preventing the development of problematic eating patterns among Caucasian, Asian-American, and African-American women. Previous traumatic experiences are also a strong risk factor for the development of eating disorder symptoms in the aforementioned groups. There was no significant finding of predictive factors among the Hispanic-American women sampled. Future studies should further explore other risk and protective factors for this group. This study showed the importance of cultural sensitivity when treating eating disordered behaviors in different ethnic groups.
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