Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Center for the Advancement of Education


The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of anorexia nervosa, or extreme starvation dieting, among high school students as affected by gender, race and socioeconomic status. Three hundred Dade County high school students (one hundred from each of three high schools) were used in this study. School sites were chosen by their socioeconomic status as determined by the percentage of free or reduced lunches as listed in Statistical Highlights, 1989-1990, published by the Dade County Planning Department. All 300 students were administered the Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI), a self report questionnaire designed to assess the cognitive and behavioral dimensions characteristic of anorexia nervosa. Hypotheses were formulated and tested by a discriminant analysis of variance with .05 as the acceptable probability level. The F-test determined the prevalence of food preoccupation (the dependent variable) among students and the propensity toward starvation dieting as affected by (the independent variables) gender, race and socioeconomic status. As a result of these data, a workshop was designed for high school students, focus on issues of concern with regard to weight preoccupation and eating disorder behaviors. An advisory panel comprised of physicians and psychologists in four clinical settings that treat eating disorders was consulted to discuss pertinent topics to be incorporated in the workshop. Panel members reviewed the completed workshop designed for validation. From the 300 students administered the EDI, thirty were selected at random (ten from each of the three high schools) to partake in the four week workshop. It is purported throughout the literature that there is a strong correlation between one's self-esteem and feelings of well-being. Therefore, the Tennessee Self-Concept Scale was administered pre- and post- treatment to determine whether the workshop affected students' feelings of self-worth. A dependent t-test for testing the difference between sample means was performed at the .05 level of confidence. Data on the variables were collected, measured, statistically analyzed, and presented in the study. The conclusions from this study, as measured by the Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI), were that there was a difference in the prevalence of anorexia nervosa between high school female students and high school male students, with female students scoring significantly higher than male students, indicating a greater propensity toward anorexia nervosa, or starvation dieting. There was a difference in the prevalence of anorexia nervosa between white high school students and non-white high school students. White high school students' scores were significantly higher than the scores of non-white students, thus revealing a greater tendency toward extreme dieting, and/or weight preoccupation. This finding further substantiated that cultural expectations influence attitudes about eating, as was brought out in the literature. There was a difference in the prevalence of anorexia nervosa between white female high school students and non-white female high school students, with white female students' scores more closely paralleling scores of anorexic students and college female students as determined in previous studies and recorded on the Eating Disorder Inventory Form. However, scores of non-white high school females more closely resembled scores of anorexic patients than did white male students, again confirming that gender played a more significant role as pertains to eating disorders than does ethnicity. There was a difference in the prevalence of anorexia nervosa between white male high school and non-white male high school students. White male high school students' scores compared to non-white male high school students were greater, indicating a possibility for weight preoccupation. The scores of white male high school students were lower, however, than white and non-white females, an indication of the importance placed on dieting by females compared to males. Socioeconomic status did affect the existence of eating disorders in high school students with students with high scores obtained from students residing in the upper socioeconomic status. As previous research attests, scores of students from higher income families were greater than the scores from middle and lower socioeconomic levels and more closely approximated the scores of subjects previously diagnosed with disordered eating patterns. This substantiated the literature which attributes eating disorders to families who demand perfection and encourage challenge and competition among its members, often found in opulent settings. There was a difference in self-esteem among weight preoccupied students who participated in a one month eating disorder workshop with an increase in self-esteem upon completion of the workshop, as measured by the Tennessee Self-Concept Scale. This fact further verifies the positive influence supportive counseling has on students with an eating disorder related problem. It is recommended, as a result of the above conclusions, that an eating disorder workshop be incorporated in the Dade County School district to facilitate a reduction in the now rising increase of starvation dieting among students in Miami and surrounding suburbs. It is further recommended that similar workshops be implemented in school settings nationwide to reduce the spread of starvation dieting in college ana high school settings across the country.

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