Understanding Disordered Eating in Black Adolescents: Effects of Gender Identity, Racial Identity, and Perceived Puberty

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Gender identity has been identified as a risk factor for disordered eating behaviors (DEB) in adolescents. However, extant studies have been slow to consider the combined influence of multiple social identities. This study examined whether social identities (gender and race) interact with perceived pubertal timing relative to peers, to predict DEB in Black adolescents and whether these relations were moderated by biological sex. Data are drawn from Black adolescents (N = 328; 42% male) who participated in Waves 3 to 5 (eighth grade, 11th grade, and 1-year post high school) of the Maryland Adolescent Development in Context Study. Results demonstrated that highly androgynous eighth-grade boys who engaged in less racial exploration reported low DEB in the 11th grade; however, post high school, high racial exploration mitigated the effects of androgyny on DEB. Moreover, boys engaged in less DEB post high school if they felt less feminine and engaged in more racial exploration in eighth grade; similar findings emerged for boys who were highly masculine and late developers. For girls, feeling more masculine and engaging in less racial exploration in eighth grade predicted low DEB in the 11th grade; however, girls who felt less feminine and engaged in less racial exploration reported low DEB in the 11th grade. Findings offer new insights into the independent and synergistic linkages between gender identity, racial identity, and perceived puberty in their relation to DEB among Black adolescent boys and girls.

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