Sarah Davis, a senior Human Development and Family Studies major at Penn State Worthington Scranton, traveled to San Antonio, TX to present her research project, "Gender Role Subscriptions and Body Image Dissatifaction" at the National Council for Family Relations (NCFR) earlier this month.
Ms. Davis' interest in this area of research is the result of her having personally battled a life-threatening eating disorder for many years.
"Overcoming those dark times has caused me to develop a passion for helping women decrease their body image dissatisfaction and refrain from measuring their self-worth based upon the number on a scale," Ms. Davis said. "I believe that it is very important that researchers continue to use the latest technology and science to understand eating disorders and body image disturbances so clinicians can use the most up-to-date and relevant information to treat clients suffering from these issues."
She also believes that relevant research can play an important role in the prevention of body image disturbances by identifying negative risk factors or increasing protective factors. "Prevention is especially important in order to reduce the suffering associated with eating disorders and body image disturbances. Treatment for these issues is often expensive and very difficult to obtain, making prevention even more important," she explained.
Ms. Davis based her research on various theories that attempt to explain the underlying causes of negative body image. Participants consisted of college women ranging in age from 18 to 30. The women participated in various surveys which categorized them as either feminine or masculine gender typed, and identified how they view their own bodies.
The results of her study were found to be statistically significant and it was accepted into the NCFR, after which she was awarded a merit-based travel research grant from Penn State's department of Human Development and Family Studies to present at its November conference.
Her research was supervised by Dr. Matthew Mutchler, LMFT, who was one of her instructors at Penn State Worthington Scranton.
"It was an extremely rewarding experience," Ms. Davis said, adding that she plans to continue on to graduate school and pursue a career as a licensed psychologist and serve individuals struggling with mental health issues in the northeast Pennsylvania region.