THE FEMALE ADOLESCENT ANORECTIC'S CONFLICT CONCERNING GENDER IDENTITY
IASON, BARBARA ANN
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This study was designed to examine the anorectic's conflict concerning her feminine identification. Though the literature on anorexia nervosa discusses the fear of growing up and the distortion in body image (Bruch, 1966), little attention has been given to the issue of gender identity. The body is the focus of this disorder both for the adolescent who battles to control it and for those who are concerned about her well-being. Therefore, this research attempted to understand the meaning that the developing body and becoming a woman has for this population.;The subjects were 10 female adolescent anorectics who had been diagnosed by their psychiatrists or physicians. A control group of youngsters without an eating disorder was used. The groups were matched in terms of age and socio-economic status. The Vocabulary subtest of the WISC-R or WAIS was administered to ensure that they were similar intellectually. An interview with a parent was needed to obtain a consent, a developmental history and a description of current functioning, which included questions about the youngster's reaction to adolescence and her feelings about being female. The interview with the subject included questions about current functioning, physical development and her relationship with her family with an emphasis on her parents. The anorectics and their parents were asked specific questions about the disorder.;The following measures were administered: Two figure drawings, the Bem Sex Role Inventory and the Broverman Sex-Role Questionnaire. These measures tap the issue of gender identity.;The results of the measures did not confirm the hypothesis that the anorectic experiences conflict concerning gender identity. Yet the clinical data gathered in the interviews with the subjects suggested that there was conflict in this area. Other issues such as the need to feel in control and the need to be special were expressed by the subjects. More significantly, it was found that these girls had either experienced some loss or the threat of loss which left them feeling unprepared to handle the demands of adolescence. The anorexia served as a means of stalling further development.
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