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Sands, S.H. (1989). Chapter 6 Eating Disorders and Female Development: A Self-Psychological Perspective. Progress in Self Psychology, 5:75-103.

(1989). Progress in Self Psychology, 5:75-103

Chapter 6 Eating Disorders and Female Development: A Self-Psychological Perspective

Susan H. Sands, Ph.D.

Eating disorders are overwhelmingly women's disorders, with females accounting for more than 90% of all bulimics and anorexics. Attempts to explain this quite remarkable gender bias have focused on three areas: first, our culture's slim standard of bodily attractiveness for women (Orbach, 1978; Wooley, Wooley, and Dyrenforth, 1980; Chernin, 1982; Polivy and Herman, 1987)—a standard that became even slimmer between the late 1950s and the late 1970s (Garner et al., 1980); second, the tendency of anorexic and bulimic women to overidentify with the female role, including the slim bodily standard (Bruch, 1973, 1978; Boskind-Lodahl, 1976; Orbach, 1978; Chernin, 1981, 1985; Steiner-Adair, 1986); and, third, the increasing pressures on modern women to juggle competing and often conflicting role demands (Boskind-White and White, 1983; Chernin, 1985; Steiner-Adair, 1986). Yet none of these cultural explanations has thoroughly answered the more fundamental questions of why women are so much more influenced by the slim cultural standard than are men, why certain women are so much more influenced than other women, or why the role pressures of modern life contribute to eating disorders in some women and to different disorders in other women. While these questions obviously cannot yet be answered completely, this essay is an attempt to add another piece to the puzzle.

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