Life goals and eating disorders among adolescent girls in Birmingham, Alabama
Possible reasons given for the relatively high prevalence of anorexia and bulimia in the West are conflicting. One viewpoint is that girls with these eating disorders want to attain a higher social status. Another argument is that the girls wish to develop a better self-concept and a sense of control. This research examines whether personal identity development is more important than social status goals among girls with eating disorders in comparison to other girls. This is the first study to date that compares the conflicting viewpoints on personal identity development and social status between girls with and without eating disorders. It was hypothesized that personal identity goals are more important than societal goals to girls with eating disorders and that the opposite is true for girls without eating disorders. Findings suggest that girls with eating disorders are more likely than girls without eating disorders to seek self-empowerment, a personal identity goal. Girls with eating disorders may also view family as more important than girls without, which suggests that girls with eating disorders seek family support while striving for independence - another personal identity goal. Girls with eating disorders may be similar to girls without in terms of wanting a boyfriend, friends, and a career.