Home Health Eating Disorders and Obesity
Asian American Women
Asian Americans are one of the most rapidly growing groups in the United States, yet Asian American women are largely underrepresented in the ED literature. This research gap has been suggested to be related to the stereotypical belief that Asian Americans do not experience psychological problems and their smaller body sizes protect them from experiencing body dissatisfaction (Phan & Tylka, 2006). In addition, Asian Americans'
potential mistrust of the mental health care system, stigmatized view of mental health disorders, and cultural values, including the need for achievement, perfectionism, and family approval, may be reasons why they do not seek help for problems with symptoms of disordered eating (Nouri, Hill, & Orrell-Valente, 2011; Phan & Tylka, 2006; Sue & Sue, 2008). Finally, their label as the “model minority” (i.e., most highly achieving minority group) may also contribute to their pressure to succeed despite the fact that this label is in contrast to the true experiences of Asian Americans (Sue & Sue, 2008).
Although some cultural factors may prevent Asian American women from seeking treatment for their eating concerns, the growing consensus is that Asian American women are experiencing eating and body image disturbance and that research studies have underestimated these rates (Cummins, Simmons, & Zane, 2005; Grabe & Hyde, 2006; Nouri et al., 2011). Limited existing empirical research has produced contradictory findings regarding the presence of specific ED symptoms in female Asian American samples. Although some researchers have found that Asian American women exhibit higher rates of body dissatisfaction in comparison to women from other racial and ethnic groups (Mintz & Kashubeck, 1999), others have found little to no difference in reports of eating and body concerns among Asian American, African American, Latina, and White women (Arriaza & Mann, 2001; Grabe & Hyde, 2006; Shaw et al., 2004). In addition, some researchers have argued that Asian American women may experience body image dissatisfaction and low self-esteem because body parts and facial features specific to their racial and ethnic groups may not reflect the beauty ideal in the dominant culture (Grabe & Hyde, 2006; Mintz & Kashubeck, 1999; Nouri et al., 2011; Phan & Tylka, 2006). Thus, an evaluation of Asian American womens internalization of sociocultural pressures regarding beauty could be useful when working with Asian American women who display ED symptoms. Given the limited existing research and inconsistent findings, it is evident that additional ED research focused on Asian American women is warranted and could be instrumental in the development of culturally competent counseling strategies for Asian American women.
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