Psychopathologies of the Adolescent Transition: Eating Disorders


Psychopathologies of the Adolescent Transition:  Eating Disorders





Table of Contents

Introduction. 3

Background of the Study. 3

Rationale of Research. 4

Aim and Objectives. 5

Methods and Procedures. 6

Possible Anticipated Outcomes. 7

Implications of the Outcomes. 8

Conclusion. 9

References. 10






Background of the Study

Adolescence is the stage of life whereby a child transforms into an adult. The two important developmental phases of experience are at the start and at the end of adolescence. For example, a child has to transition from childhood to adolescence, then from adolescence to adulthood.  During this stage of life, adolescents usually experience problems that are associated with sexuality and social status as well as family, physical body, peer relations, and cognitive complexity.  The two kinds of psychopathology that emerge during the developmental course are eating disorders (anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa) and substance disorders substance abuse (Rikani et al., 2013).  The focus of this paper is on eating disorders as experienced during adolescent transition. Thus, the proposed research study is about eating disorders among adolescents as they transition through development stages.

Eating disorders are complex illnesses that have an effect on adolescents while they transition to adulthood. According to Kreipe et al. (1998), eating disorders are ranked “as the third most common chronic illness in adolescent females, with an incidence of up to 5%, a rate that has increased dramatically over the past three decades” (p. 189).  In the United Kingdom, 14 to 25-year-olds are most affected by eating disorders, with more females being more affected by males. Nonetheless, 11% of the 1.6 million people affected by eating disorders are males, whereby 10% have anorexia and 40% are bulimic (NHS, 2013). Two major subgroups associated with the eating disorders are: a restrictive form (anorexia nervosa), and a bulimic form. Under bulimia, people experiences binge eating episodes are then followed by attempts to reduce the impacts of overeating through vomiting, catharsis, fasting (bulimia nervosa), and exercising (Kreipe et al., 1998).

Both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are linked with serious psychological, biological, and sociological morbidity, as well as significant mortality. In most cases, eating disorders are most evident among adolescents from adults who are driven by some physical and social factors to change the way they look. In order to determine the treatment, diagnosis, and outcome of eating disorders, the unique features of adolescents as well as the developmental process of adolescence are critical considerations (Costello, Copeland, & Angold, 2011). Family relations, environments societal expectations, and body changes are some of the primary factors associated with eating disorders in adolescents.  Also, adolescence is linked with stress and storm (Rikani et al., 2013).  

The increase in concern over physical appearance can lead some teenagers to develop eating disorders. Accordingly, adolescents have to be deliberated separately and distinguished from adult patients with eating disorders.  The second biggest cause of death is suicide, around 3-23% of anorexic patients will attempt suicide, and rates of successful completion are 50 times greater than the general population (Rikani et al., 2013). In addition, the lifetime prevalence rates of eating disorders are 0.3% in males and 0.9% in females, and it usually starts in adolescence, between 14 and 18 years (NHS, 2013).

Rationale of Research

            Previous research findings have established that the prevalence of eating disorders is prevalent among adolescent females compared to males, ad it has over the last 50 years increased significantly (Latif, Khan, & Farroq, 2011).  In addition, eating disorders are ranked third in terms of common chronic illness in adolescent females, with a high incidence level. In contemporary society, adolescents compared to adults are more prone to concerns related to their size, weight, shape, and body image, therefore, they tend to prefer to diet and other eating practices so as to lose weight and be like their peers (Morris & Katzman, 2003).  Additionally, society expects adolescents to watch their weight and this could compel them to engage in eating disorders. On the other hand, women are more likely than male adolescents to engage in eating disorders.  Available researchers have hypothesized that adolescence transition is responsible for body dissatisfaction among adolescents, and may consequently be partly responsible for the increased incidence and prevalence of eating disorders. This study highlights the primary causes which are responsible for the increased eating disorders among adolescents and evaluates the association between race and eating disorders in female adolescents. The research findings will provide information that can be used to help parents, family members, and adolescents in preventing eating disorders.

Aim and Objectives

The aim of the proposed qualitative research is to discuss why females compared to males are at a greater risk of developing eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. More specifically, the study will discuss why Caucasian females are at greater risk of developing anorexia and bulimia than Black females. The objectives are:

1)    Establish the causes of eating disorders among adolescents.

2)    To find out why the risk of experiencing eating disorders is greater among adolescence in comparison to other developmental phases.

To achieve the proposed objectives, the research proposal will be guided by the following research questions. (1) What are the causes of eating disorders among adolescents; and (2) Why does the risk of experiencing eating disorders is greater among adolescents in comparison to other developmental phases?

Methods and Procedures

Yin (1994) stated that a research design is a logical sequence connecting the collected data of a study with the research question and objectives, and eventually, to its conclusions. Thus, a research design is a form of phases that connects different parts of the methods of a study. Similarly, De Vaus (2001) found that the primary function of a research design is ensuring that the evidence acquired enables a researcher to answer the initial questions proposed as unambiguously as possible. According to Mouton (2011), a research design is a blueprint of the proposed research study at hand. The prospective study is based on in-depth research whereby in-depth evidence will be gathered from relatively available research studies (Remenyi, Williams, Money & Swartz, 2009). A qualitative research design will be applied to discuss why Caucasian females are at greater risk of developing anorexia and bulimia than Black females. Qualitative research is chosen because it can be helpful because experiences and opinions are required in this study.

For this study, the data will be collected from already existing materials such as journals, books, and government publications among others. The search for articles will be carried out in PubMed and SciELO databases as well as Cochran, combining the terms 'adolescents', 'causes of eating disorders, 'eating behaviors, 'bulimia', and 'anorexia', in English. Google Scholar will also be used to search for materials for this study and apply them in answering the research questions. The researcher will consider articles published between 2011 and 2017. Afterward, only articles meeting the inclusion criteria will be included. For example, they must be up-to-date, written in English, and focusing on eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa (AN), and bulimia nervosa (BN).

Thus, the research proposal will review data available in both unpublished and published forms related to the prevalence of eating disorders in adolescence, the manner in which the rates change as young persons transition into and out of adolescence, and the causes of eating disorders during this development stage (Costello, Copeland, & Angold, 2011). This is because, for transitions from childhood to adolescence, the research is more likely to find the data required in this study. Moreover, secondary sources of data will provide quality findings given that data from different sources that complement each other will be used. For instance, data will be collected from past studies that include qualitative, quantitative, cross-sectional, and systematic reviews, hence an in-depth and rich data set for this study.

Possible Anticipated Outcomes

After conducting the study, the researcher anticipates that all the research aim, objectives, and questions will be achieved. For example, the findings would show the risk of experiencing eating disorders is greater among adolescence in comparison to other developmental phases. This is because adolescence compared to other stages is characterized by problem behaviours and delinquency among majority of the teenagers. Moreover, early-maturing females than that of men appear to be at increased risk for sexual assault, peer pressure, victimization, and physical development and this may partly explain their greater probability of problem behaviors  (Rikani, 2013).  This outcome suggests the need for urgent interventions by parents and other stakeholders on early-maturing adolescents who are at increased risk for linked poor developmental outcomes.

The researcher also expects the research findings to show that the causes of eating disorders among adolescents. Some of the possible causes of eating disorders include the influence of media (Spettigue & Henderson, 2004), peer pressure, society, and family issues among others. Thus, the outcomes are more likely to show the correlation between the use of mass media and eating disorder symptomatology, body satisfaction, and negative affect. Other results include establishing whether Caucasian women compared to other races such as blacks are more likely to be associated with eating disorders. This is because excessive concern about weight, as well as shape, is a common risk factor in bulimia nervosa (Spettigue & Henderson, 2004).  This finding can be successful in answering the research questions and realizing the proposed objectives.

Implications of the Outcomes

Adolescence is a development phase that is associated with transformation as well as growth mentally, physically, and biologically. Thus, during this time children transition toward adulthood, and at the same time start to discover who they are. In addition, they not only become more independent but also experience developments and changes in their bodies and establish friendships that could influence their views. Therefore, the findings of this proposed research would have significant implications for both parents and their children in terms of establishing the causes of eating disorders. In addition, parents could help their adolescents to adopt other weight management approaches rather than engaging in eating disorders that are fatal. In schools and other institutions of learning, awareness can be created among the children and their families on ways to avoid such disorders. For example, students in adolescent stages while transiting to adulthood could be informed of how dieting may trigger an eating disorder in some persons who are predisposed genetically, hence eventually causing death.


Adolescence is a complex development period between childhood and young adulthood and is characterized by different transformations and growth. Because of numerous changes (biologically, physically, and socially), peer pressure, and media can cause eating disorders among adolescents. Eating disorders can cause death among adolescents of ages 14-18 years, hence the need for this study. The necessary data for this study will be collected from existing sources such as research journals, systematic reviews, articles, and books among others.  Increased concern among adolescents over physical appearance can result in some teenagers developing eating disorders.





Costello, E. J., Copeland, W., & Angold, A. (2011). Trends in psychopathology across the adolescent years: What changes when children become adolescents, and when adolescents become adults? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, 52(10), 1015–1025.

De Vaus, D. (2001). Research design in social research. London, UK: SAGE

Kreipe, R. E., Golden, N. H., Katzman, D. K., Fisher, M., Rees, J., Tonkin, R. S., & … Hoberman, H. M. (1998). Eating disorders in adolescents: Principles of diagnosis and treatment. Paediatrics & Child Health, 3(3), 189–192.

Latif, A., Khan, S., & Farroq, W. (2011). Impact of Media on Development of Eating Disorders in Young Females of Pakistan. International Journal of Psychological Studies, 3(11), 122-143.

Morris, A., and Katzman, D. (2003). The impact of media on eating disorders in children and adolescents. Journal of the Canadian Pediatric Society, 8(5), 1-10.

Mouton, J. (2011) How to succeed in your masters and doctoral studies: A South African guide and resource book. Pretoria, SA: Van Schaik Publishers.

NHS. (2013). Eating disorders.

Remenyi, D., Williams, B., Money, A. & Swartz, E. 2009. Doing research in business and management. London, UK: Sage.

Rikani, A. A., Choudhry, Z., Choudhry, A. M., Ikram, H., Asghar, M. W., Kajal, D., … Mobassarah, N. J. (2013). A critique of the literature on etiology of eating disorders. Annals of Neurosciences, 20(4), Spettigue, W., & Henderson, K. A. (2004). Eating Disorders and the Role of the Media. The Canadian Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Review13(1), 16–19.

Yin, R. (1994).Case study research: Design and methods(2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing. 



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