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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Cultural factors in collegiate eating disorder pathology: when family culture clashes with individual culture.

  • Author(s): Tomiyama, A Janet
  • Mann, Traci
  • et al.

OBJECTIVE: The authors evaluated the validity of familial enmeshment (extreme proximity in family relationships) as a risk factor for eating disorders across cultural value orientations. They tested the hypothesis that although familial enmeshment may be a risk factor for eating disorder pathology for (1) participants of non-Asian descent or (2) culturally independent participants, enmeshment will not be a risk factor for (1) participants of Asian descent or (2) culturally interdependent participants. PARTICIPANTS: 255 undergraduate women participated. METHODS: Participants completed questionnaires on cultural value orientations, enmeshment, and eating disorder pathology. RESULTS: As hypothesized, enmeshment was related to eating disorder pathology in non-Asian American and culturally independent participants, but not in Asian American and culturally interdependent participants. CONCLUSIONS: Depending on cultural values, enmeshment may or may not be a risk factor for eating disorders. This study highlights the importance of examining risk factors in the appropriate cultural framework when considering college student mental health.

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