Adolescence is a developmental stage in which there is a heightened risk for the development of eating pathology in girls. Adolescents who participate in aesthetic sports, such as dance or gymnastics, which are known to emphasize thinness, are believed to be at even higher level of risk for eating pathology than girls in the general population. Ballet is an example of an aesthetic sport where thinness is thought to be greatly emphasized and valued. There is a strong body of literature indicating that ballet dancers have more eating pathology than non-dancers, but explanatory models have not been extensively researched and dancers’ perceptions about the pressures that they experience have rarely been assessed. The current study tested a predictive model of eating pathology in adolescent girls who were hypothesized to experience different levels of risk for eating pathology. Girls who were studying classical ballet at well-established dance schools (N = 45) were compared with high school girls who were not currently studying ballet (N = 111) on individual, interpersonal, and socicultural variables that were selected for their strong empirical support. Although dancers in the current sample had significantly lower BMIs than non-dancers, they did not have higher levels of pathological eating. However, SEM analyses indicated that the processes leading to pathological eating among dancers and non-dancers differ. Analyses of dancers’ experiences suggested that dancers did not perceive pressures to be thin from instructors or peers. Instead, dancers who participated in the current study perceived ballet to be a positive experience in their life with a health-promoting effect.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/alison_spadafora/1/