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Survey: Sororities bad for body image

March 2, 2010 at 12:15 PM   |   Comments

EVANSTON, Ill., March 2 (UPI) -- A student survey at a Midwest university indicates women seeking to join sororities are more likely to have a negative body image than non-sorority women.

Undergraduate females who join a sorority are more likely to judge their bodies from an outsider's perspective and display higher levels of food disorder behaviors and attitudes, and ultimately show higher levels of body shame than those who do not take part in the sorority's recruitment process, indicated the survey that is part of Ashley Marie Rolnik's senior honors thesis at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., the online Springer journal Sex Roles reported Tuesday.

Rolnik's study is the first to test the outsider's view -- or objectification -- theory as it pertains to body shame and eating disorders in a real life context, Sex Roles reported.

The survey tested 127 first-year NU women, ages 17-20, in two groups: those who went through recruitment or "rush" and joined a sorority, and those who did not participate in any sorority-related activities. Participants in the first group completed online questionnaires at four time points: before rushing, several days into the rush, on the day bids to join a sorority are received and one month after the rush.

Negative body image and eating disorders were found throughout the study period to be higher among rush participants than among women uninvolved in sorority activities. A month after rush, new sorority members displayed higher levels of body shame. Women with higher weight were more likely to drop out of rushing, even if they were not overweight, but merely heavier than those who completed the rush process, the survey indicated.

"As sororities are very powerful at influencing the norms and ideals of their members, a move away from a focus on appearance and towards a set of norms that encourages healthy eating habits and more positive approaches to body image has real potential," Rolnick said.

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