Eating attitudes and their correlates in a large sample of white and african american dance students

Por: Erin Reilly, Hank Williford, Jo Alexander e Michele Olson.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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Introduction

Current research regarding body image and eating behaviors in female dancers has shown that this population expresses, at an above average rate, attitudes about physique and diet that are consistent with those who have eating disorders. The majority of these studies were conducted with white female dancers or dancers of professional status. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to analyze eating attitudes and their correlates in a sample of white and African American secondary school dance students enrolled at two public performing arts magnate schools in Montgomery, Alabama USA.

Methods

One hundred one female dance students from grades 6 to 12 completed the Eating Attitudes-26 Test (EAT-26) and were measured for height, weight, and body fat percentage. Of these subjects 52 were white and 49 were African American.

Results

There were no significant differences between the sub-groups for height, weight, and body fat percentage (159.8 cm, 54.2 kg, and 20%, respectively). The mean EAT-26 score for the entire group was 9.4, which is below the accepted "cut-score" for the presence of possible eating disorders. However, the 10.1 SD in EAT-26 scores indicated that some dance students were well above the "cut-score." In fact, descriptive statistics revealed that 16% of the dance students scored above the EAT-26 "cut-point" value. However, just one of those students was African American. ANOVA results also showed that the white female dance students had a mean EAT-26 score of 12.2, which was significantly higher than the mean score for the African American dance students (mean EAT-26 score was 5.5). The correlations (r) found to be significantly related to the EAT-26 scores were race (-.31), age (.28), grade level (.26), and years of dance experience (.21). Interestingly, body fat was not significantly correlated to the EAT-26 scores.

Discussion/ Conclusions

The results of this study indicate that white, secondary school-aged dance students exhibit eating attitude scores that are higher compared to African American dance students of the same age and body size. Moreover, body composition was not associated to EAT-26 scores. Therefore, white female dance students may be at an elevated risk for developing body dissatisfaction and/or disordered eating behaviors compared to African American dancers with the same level of dance training and experience.

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