Sexual harassment and disordered eating symptomatology in females
Funk, Roni Stiller
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Sexual harassment and disordered eating symptomatology are two aspects of female experience that are both widespread and understudied (MacMillan, Nierobisz, & Welsh, 2000; Striegel-Moore & Smolak, 2001; Welsh, 1999). Recent research has demonstrated a relationship between sexual harassment and disordered eating attitudes and behavior in females (Harned, 2000; Harned & Fitzgerald, 2002). Based on these empirical studies and feminist theoretical frameworks, this study aimed to answer research questions about the interrelationships between the external variable of sexual harassment, the internal variables of self-objectification, self-silencing, and internalized shame, and the dependent variable, disordered eating symptomatology. Two hundred and two college age females at a large public university in the southeast completed an anonymous questionnaire survey. The expected relationship between sexual harassment experience and disordered eating symptomatology was not found. Self-objectification and internalized shame were significant predictors of disordered eating symptomatology. To understand interrelationships more fully, subscale variations were examined and are discussed. It appears that there is a relationship between the factor that is measured by the oral control subscale of the EAT-26 and some aspects of sexual harassment experience as measured by the SEQ. The relevance of sexual harassment and disordered eating to social work practice is emphasized. The results of the study suggest roles for social workers in treatment, research and prevention. Specific clinical and policy recommendations are proposed. Additionally, suggestions are made for future research regarding the complex relationship between sexual harassment and disordered eating.