Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Menna, Rosanne

Keywords

Barriers; Disordered Eating; Eating Disorder; Emerging Adulthood; Help Seeking

Rights

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Abstract

In a society dominated by a drive for thinness, the presence of eating pathology in young women is not uncommon. This study examined the prevalence and perceptions of disordered eating in a sample of N = 198 female university students. Participants completed measures assessing eating pathology, general attitudes towards help seeking, and perceived barriers to seeking help. To examine whether a discrepancy existed between perceptions of disordered eating in oneself versus another individual, participants read a hypothetical vignette in which the main character (the participant herself or another female student) exhibited disordered eating. Results revealed that participants with greater eating pathology were more likely to identify as having a problem with their eating and food-related behaviours. Greater eating pathology also predicted perceiving more barriers to seeking help, which in turn predicted less positive attitudes towards seeking help for psychological issues. Results also supported the existence of a broad discrepancy in terms of how participants perceive disordered eating in themselves versus in another individual. This self-other discrepancy was reflected in a variety of study outcomes, including beliefs about seeking help for disordered eating, beliefs about coping with disordered eating, preferences for seeking help, and barriers to seeking help. The present findings serve to inform our understanding of disordered eating in emerging adulthood, and why young women so often fail to seek help for this issue. In particular, the self-other discrepancy in perceptions of disordered eating highlights the need to consider how young women perceive disordered eating in themselves (as opposed to in another individual) when research will be used to inform the development of disordered eating prevention and intervention programs.

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