This study sought to examine the effect of high school gender composition on eating disorder symptomatology and attitudes of female Australian university students. We compared female students who had previously attended single sex (n = 52) or coeducational (n = 43) high schools on measures of eating disorder symptomatology, role concerns, figure preference and social comparison so as to examine the effect of high school gender composition on these measures. Importantly, the groups compared here were not significantly different in age, body mass index, socioeconomic status, or whether they had previously sought advice about their weight. Contrary to predictions based on previous research, there were no significant differences between the groups on eating disorder symptomatology, role concern, or social comparison measures. However, students who had previously attended single sex schools endorsed significantly thinner figure preferences overall, suggesting that school environment was an important cultural factor in the development of aspiration towards a thin idea. Additionally, both groups perceived their current figure to be larger than the figure they perceived as most attractive. Our findings provide mixed support for the notion that high school gender composition impacted on the eating-related behaviour and attitudes of university students. Methodological differences that may account for the discrepancies between the findings of the current study and those of earlier work are discussed. Further research including longitudinal studies that employ larger sample sizes is required to clarify these findings.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 6, 2011
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