Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Donald A. Williamson


The present investigation examined the psychosocial correlates of eating disorder symptoms among a young sample of Black female adolescents. Recent epidemiological investigations have documented higher rates of disordered eating in Black females than had previously been reported. Because of the high prevalence of these symptoms both in majority and in minority populations, many eating disorder researchers are promoting preventive strategies to stem further increases in symptom levels. To this end, several longitudinal investigations have been conducted to delineate the risk factors of disordered eating among White adolescent populations. However, Black adolescents have been minimally represented in these samples. Thus, there is a dearth of knowledge of the psychosocial correlates of eating disorder symptoms among young Black females. The purpose of this investigation was to examine these correlates among a Black, female adolescent sample. Correlates examined included social pressure for thinness from the media, from mothers, and from peers; pubertal development; and self-esteem. Results indicated that young Black females experience some unique pressures that may necessitate tailored preventive interventions. More specifically, Black female adolescents experienced conflicting weight and shape goals from different social contexts, pressure to gain weight from their mothers and teasing about weight from their peers. Further, self-esteem was examined as a mediator of environmental pressures for thinness and eating disorder symptoms. In the Black sample, self-esteem was found to partially mediate the relationship between media influence and eating disorder symptoms; while self-esteem was found to totally mediate the relationship between teasing and eating disorder symptoms. The strength of these relationships was not as strong in the White adolescent sample, although the pattern of relationships was consistent. Thus, it is possible that these conflicting pressures from different social contexts contribute to a greater negative evaluation of oneself than consistent pressure for slenderness. Further, these pressures may be particularly potent during adolescent transitions, as Black adolescents were more bothered by the changes associated with puberty than the White adolescents. The implications of these conflicting pressures and their negative relationship with self-esteem are discussed in terms of future preventive intervention.