Eating disorders: Reconciliation of feminist and psychoanalytic theories
Galin, Jodi Rosenblatt
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Psychoanalytic theories have suggested that failure to separate and become autonomous, feeling ineffective in one's ability to control, and fear of maturing are personality issues and stressors that specifically contribute to the development of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. On the other hand, feminist theories have suggested that the healthy female is the one who has relational connections. The resolution of the search for autonomy and the search for connectedness--seemingly contradictory motives--and their relationship to eating disorders is the purpose of this study. Through such methods as the media, society pressures women to become the autonomous, career-oriented, ultra-thin woman. Various theorists have suggested that these social pressures in combination with psychological vulnerability create the predisposition to eating disorders. Sixty-three college women participated in this study to see if lack of autonomy, feeling ineffective in one's ability to control, maturity fears, lack of relational connections and insecure attachments, and attitudes towards women's roles could predict who would be at risk for developing eating disorders. Results included the finding that subjects who were at greater risk for eating disorders were less autonomous, felt control was externally located, felt less close with their parents, were less likely to be securely attached, and reported that they themselves valued beauty, independence, and career-oriented achievement. To aid the understanding of Steiner-Adair's (1984, 1990) conclusions, this author proposed the idea that valuing beauty, independence, and career-oriented achievement post-date the development of relationship connections and personality traits such as autonomy and perceived locus of control. Finally, the results corroborate Stern's (1990) conclusion that for the healthy female adolescent, separation and independence occur within the context of relationship. That is, women at risk for eating disorders seem to have difficulty becoming autonomous and maintaining relationship connections among other problems.