Impact of Eating Disorder Stereotypes on Clinician Recognition of Disordered Eating
Jacobson, Daniel A.
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There exists a stereotype that only upper-class Caucasian women are prone to developing eating disorders and that minority women are immune to these disorders. This study assesses the impact of this stereotype on a clinician's ability to diagnose and identify disordered eating in minority populations. A sample of 64 randomly selected clinicians from various universities were instructed to read one of two similar passages from a young girl's diary that contained symptoms of disordered eating. The passages differed only in the indicated race of the author: Caucasian or African American. Participants were then asked to identify any behavioral abnormalities present in the young girl's diary passage and to diagnose and refer treatment based on the problems they identified. Also, participants were asked to rate the severity of the girl's eating disorder by completing a modified Eating Disorder Inventory (ED I). Clinicians in the African American condition identified eating disorders in the young girl significantly less often than clinicians in the Caucasian condition. Thus, results indicated that race significantly affects clinicians' ability to diagnose eating disorders in minority populations. The role of this clinician bias as an impediment to diagnosis and subsequent treatment referrals is discussed. No significant difference was found when the severity scores of the African American condition and Caucasian condition were compared. Possible explanations for this result are given.
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