Identity status and weight preoccupation in college women

Marianne Herzog, University of Pennsylvania


This study examined the relationship between disordered eating, as measured by the Weight Preoccupation Survey (Schiowitz, 1988), and identity development, as measured by the Revised Extended Objective Measure of Ego Identity Status (Bennion & Adams, 1986). A Personal Information Form, developed by the author, provided demographic information related to the study, and a semi-structured interview of six (6) study participants contributed clinical data. One hundred seven (107) female college students were selected from two colleges based on availability to the researcher. Data supported the expectation that there would be a range of weight preoccupation, as measured by the WPS, among this nonclinical sample of college women, that their reported actual weight would be more than the weight they reported they want to weigh (ideal weight), and that their ideal weight would be less than that recommended by insurance charts. Relationship between weight preoccupation and identity status was examined through a one-way analysis of variance. The expectation that women's weight preoccupation would vary significantly among the four identity status categories was not supported by the data. A comparison of women for whom engagement in exploration was a part of identity formation and those for whom it was not, revealed no significant difference in weight preoccupation. A significantly higher degree of weight preoccupation was found in women who had not committed to an identity than in those who had. A large number of participants were found to be in the identity status characterized by exploration of alternatives. Clinical data from follow up interviews of six participants reveals a group of women for whom issues related to weight, eating, dieting, exercising and body image are perceived to play a large role in identity development. They all named family as the largest influence in their identity development. Some suggested that the task of identity development is made more difficult for women by differential treatment of women because of gender both in and out of the classroom, and the lack of female mentors. Some of their thoughts reflected the notion that women take relational issues into account when choosing among identity-related alternatives.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Womens studies|Psychotherapy

Recommended Citation

Herzog, Marianne, "Identity status and weight preoccupation in college women" (1997). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9727232.