, Volume 36, Issue 7-8, pp 461-478

Adherence to the Super Woman ideal and eating disorder symptoms among college women

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The degree to which three components of the Super Woman construct of femininity [C. Steiner-Adair (1986) “The Body Politic: Normal Female Adolescent Development and the Development of Eating Disorders” Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis, Vol. 14, pp. 95–114], valuing physical appearance, striving for success in multiple roles, and insecure parental attachment, are related to eating disorder symptoms was examined for a sample of 156 college women (84% white, 6% African American, 6% Asian, 3% Latina, 1% another race). Canonical analysis yielded three significant roots, suggesting a complex relationship between components of the Super Woman model and eating disorder symptoms. The first root supports the hypothesized relationship between the three components of the Super Woman model and eating disorder symptoms. The second root suggests that striving for success, when accompanied by a context of secure parental attachment, is positively associated with measures of social competence. The third root highlights the contribution of an emphasis on physical appearance to weight concern, dieting, and bulimic behavior.

This article is based upon a dissertation completed at Boston College by the first author, under the supervision of the second author. We gratefully acknowledge the comments of James Mahalik on a previous draft of this manuscript.