Adolescence is a complex period during which a number of physical and psychological changes are observed in humans. Primary and secondary sex characteristics in females include the development of the uterus, vagina, and ovaries, menstruation, breast growth, and skin changes (Zastrow et al., 2019). However, the biological and psychological development may be challenged by the presence of eating disorders, and, according to Zastrow et al. (2019), females introduce the majority who have this type of disorder. In their peer-reviewed research study, Bucchianeri et al. (2016) prove that African American and Asian girls are at greater risk for low self-esteem because of body dissatisfaction than White girls. Therefore, in this paper, the position that eating disorders in female adolescents is based on racial and cultural differences will be analyzed through the prism of their biological and psychological changes.
Due to the inability to control eating habits and do regular exercises to keep the body healthy, many young women consider eating disorders as their problem. Dissatisfaction with their physical appearance may be predetermined by local cultures and personal attitudes. Following the biological perspective, many girls are interested in having the desired breast size, avoiding too small or too large parameters. Eating pathologies include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder and are common for girls who experience fear of gaining or losing weight and not meeting the common standards (Zastrow et al., 2019). Such factors as brain maturation, body composition, physical activities, and sedentary behaviors influence girls’ behavior during the adolescent period, and White girls become more concerned about their physiological development (Bucchianeri et al., 2016). As a result, induced vomiting as a sign of bulimia nervosa has a negative impact, provoking biological morbidity. In their turn, African American girls demonstrate greater satisfaction with their weight than White girls, and Asian girls report the highest dissatisfaction level with their bodies (Bucchianeri et al., 2016). Binge eating disorder is frequently diagnosed among Asian girls who want to gain weight.
The psychological development of adolescent girls has a variety of forms, depending on family relationships, the impact of peers, and personal interests and goals. The use of deceptive excuses helps to cover the true reasons for not eating in public. As Zastrow et al. (2019) admit, it is possible for adolescents to say that they have already eaten something to avoid conflicts with peers or family members. Lies result in the lack of trustful relationships and the development of mental health disorders and problems.
Another critical aspect of the position on eating disorders is that adolescents are obsessed with thinking and gathering information about nutritional options, food quality, and weight changes. If young people with binge eating disorder have no tendency to lie about their eating preferences and intentions to gain weight, anorexics like to hide their problems and deny the importance of professional help. Depressive symptoms are observed in Asian adolescents, and they lead to low self-esteem and the impossibility to interact with peers, solve common problems, and share experiences (Bucchianeri et al., 2016). Regardless of their racial background, girls do not have enough motivation to control their weight and avoid unnecessary and damaging eating manipulations. Medical experts recommend regular monitoring of such adolescents to predict the progress of psychological problems into serious medical complications. Sometimes, it is easy to take a mental health intervention and identify a psychological issue instead of applying some pharmacological treatment plans.
Contributions to Social Work Practice
The recognition of physiological and psychological factors in the development of eating disorders among adolescent girls with different racial and cultural backgrounds plays a vital role in social work practice. Today, females who have eating disorders admit that the first crucial changes occur during the adolescent period. Therefore, it has become popular for social workers to participate in treating eating disorders, either directly or indirectly. To reduce the frequency of eating disorders, health promotion is required. Social workers may be responsible for controlling the situations when body dissatisfaction and low self-esteem are promoted by the lack of media literacy and the wrong impact of social media (Gratwick-Sarll et al., 2014). Bucchianeri et al. (2016) underline that an understanding of body images and using credible health literature should help adolescents from different racial/cultural groups prevent eating disorders. The main contribution of all these findings to social work practice is that eating disorders have to be prevented and explained instead of just being recognized and treated. A social worker is able to establish a close connection with a young girl and help her understand her priorities, focusing on age, cultural, and racial factors.
Eating disorders may be related to various psychological, biological, social, and genetic aspects that depend on the racial and cultural differences of adolescent girls. Today, many young females admit their desire to obtain perfect physical parameters and meet the standards established in their society. However, instead of focusing on their own interests, preferences, and physiological characteristics, they rely on current statistics and approaches without even thinking about how harmful and unnecessary their decisions could be. Adolescent girls from different racial and cultural groups are frequently exposed to the negative impact of eating disorders, and the task of a social worker is to expand public knowledge and offer health interventions.
Bucchianeri, M. M., Fernandes, N., Loth, K., Hannan, P. J., Eisenberg, M. E., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2016). Body dissatisfaction: Do associations with disordered eating and psychological well-being differ across race/ethnicity in adolescent girls and boys? Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 22(1), 137–146. Web.
Gratwick-Sarll, K., Bentley, C., Harrison, C., & Mond, J. (2014). Poor self-recognition of disordered eating among girls with bulimic-type eating disorders: Cause for concern? Early Intervention in Psychiatry, 10(4), 316–323.
Zastrow, C. H., Kirst-Ashman, K. K., & Hessenauer, S. L. (2019). Understanding human behavior and the social environment (11th ed.). Cengage Learning.