Eating disorders and peer pressure

As compared to childhood friendships forged during adolescence tend to be more meaningful and stable. During that impulsive age the bond we share with our friends matters more to us than the one we share with our own parents. The need to confide in people of age and count on during our hour of need strengthens that link. It is due to this sense of loyalty and comfort that teenagers spend a good chunk of their time in the company of their friends. However, such dependence can also have several downsides. Take peer pressure for example. Peer pressure and friendships are two closely knitted factors. While there is no denying the importance of good friends in one’s life these same individuals can become a source of peer pressure and make us try things unwillingly which we wouldn’t under normal circumstances. Eating disorder or anorexia as it is more commonly known is one such example where teenage girls always feel pressured to maintain their body image.

Eating disorders and peer pressure

According to a research conducted by Dr. Christopher J. Ferguson of the Texas A&M University, young girls are easily influenced by their peers especially when it comes to dissatisfaction with their bodies. Published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence the research further states that “peer culture” develops eating disorders in teenagers, particularly young girls to a point where they feel pressured to keep up with the perfect body image portrayed in the media. Girls indirectly feel the need to compete with their close friends when they witness them follow a diet regimen to get that perfect look. In order to avoid feelings of inferiority for not having the perfect physique like their friends, adolescent girls push their bodies to the limit, which is when they start to develop symptoms of anorexia. Teenagers suffering from anorexia are prone to develop further disorders like genetic disposition, low self-esteem, and high levels of perceived stress.

Another study conducted by Dr. Joan Costa-Font and Professor Mireia Jofre-Bonet of City University concluded that peer culture is one of the most significant causes of development of anorexia and inferiority complex among teenage girls. The problem was especially noted to be at its peak during Paris Fashion Week – a time when size zero models walk the runway for major fashion houses. Upon witnessing their ideal body shape dressed in designer clothing teenage girls were influenced to take up an unhealthy diet and workout plan to achieve that look, and in the process indirectly influenced their close friends to do the same. In a statement to Reuters Dr. Costa Font stated, “We found evidence that social pressure, through peer shape, is a determinant in explaining anorexia nervosa and a distorted self-perception of one's own body”.

Parental Intervention

It goes without saying that parental involvement in dealing with eating disorders is crucial. Timely measures can not only effectively curb the problem but can also encourage teenage girls to maintain their body mass index and live a healthy lifestyle. According to experts parents should keep an eye out for drastic changes in eating habits like excessive intake of vegetables outside of prescribed diet plan. Focusing on their daughter’s talents instead of her looks and avoiding any negative comments about physical appearance/clothes can also prevent teenage girls from developing eating disorders.

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