Since most research on eating disorders among athletes has focused on college-age samples, the present investigation examines the adolescent competitive swimmer. Three areas related to weight and eating habits were explored: general concerns about weight, use of weight control techniques, and tendencies toward anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa and associated behavioral/personal characteristics. Previous research has found females to be at greater risk than males, thus gender comparisons were undertaken. Questionnaires were completed by 85 adolescent competitive swimmers attending a nationally known summer swim camp at a large midwestern university. Consistent with the cultural norm of thinness for women, young female swimmers desired weight loss more than their male counterparts did. In terms of actual pathogenic weight control techniques or eating disorder tendencies, however, few significant gender differences were found. Neither male nor female adolescent swimmers were particularly susceptible to eating disorders or pathogenic weight control techniques.
Diane E. Taub is with the Dept. of Sociology at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Carbondale, IL 62901-4524. Rose Ann Benson is with the Div. of Intercollegiate Athletics at San Jose State University, San Jose, CA 95192-0062.