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The Role of Self-Objectification in the Experience of Women with Eating Disorders

Abstract

Objectification theory has linked self-objectification to negative emotional experiences and disordered eating behavior in cultures that sexually objectify the female body. This link has not been empirically tested in a clinical sample of women with eating disorders. In the present effort, 209 women in residential treatment for eating disorders completed self-report measures of self-objectification, body shame, media influence, and drive for thinness on admission to treatment. Results demonstrated that the internalization of appearance ideals from the media predicted self-objectification, whereas using the media as an informational source about appearance and feeling pressured to conform to media ideals did not. Self-objectification partially mediated the relationship between internalized appearance ideals and drive for thinness; internalized appearance ideals continued to be an independent predictor of variance. In accordance with objectification theory, body shame partially mediated the relationship between self-objectification and drive for thinness in women with eating disorders; self-objectification continued to be an independent predictor of variance. These results illustrate the importance of understanding and targeting the experience of self-objectification in women with eating disorders or women at risk for eating disorders.

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Correspondence to Rachel M. Calogero.

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Calogero, R.M., Davis, W.N. & Thompson, J.K. The Role of Self-Objectification in the Experience of Women with Eating Disorders. Sex Roles 52, 43–50 (2005) doi:10.1007/s11199-005-1192-9

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KEY WORDS:

  • self-objectification
  • eating disorders
  • internalization
  • sociocultural