Psychology PhD student Tatiana Ungredda will present her paper, “Eating Disorders Inventory: Measurement equivalence across ethnic groups in the United States” at the 2013 International Conference on Eating Disorders on May 2-4 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. This annual conference is presented by the Academy of Eating Disorders.

Ungredda’s research centers on the often neglected cultural variable of eating disorder assessments and how this can lead to misdiagnoses. In collaboration with her advisor Marisol Perez, she specifically focuses on assessing whether the Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI), which is a widely-used measure of eating disorder symptomatology, can accurately identify symptoms in minority women.

During the initial development of the EDI, minorities were not represented in the standardizing sample that test-developers used in the design process. Although there have been revisions since the creation of the EDI, Ungredda seeks to determine if this normative assessment is appropriate for different ethnic groups. She asserts that all groups suffer from eating disorders, but the disorders may be presented differently. 

“It is possible that we are assessing ethnic minorities with rules that only represent the behaviors of white/majority individuals,” said Ungredda. She suggests that by ignoring the cultural variance factor, minority groups are being “systematically neglected.”

Ungredda’s research project involved EDI assessments filled out by 2,264 college-aged women with various ethnic backgrounds including Caucasian, Native American, and those of Hispanic, Asian, and African descent. The study found that out of the eight scales presented on the EDI—drive for thinness, Bulimia, body dissatisfaction, perfectionism, ineffectiveness, maturity fears, interpersonal distrust, and interoceptive awareness—only Bulimia, drive for thinness, and interoceptive awareness were found to be appropriate in assessing people of different ethnicities.  In addition, they found there was a difference in how various ethnicities endorsed certain questions.

 “This is important to know because if you’re assessing something to be diagnostic, you have to make sure the results occurred because the person has the diagnosis, not because of some other effect that is endemic to a particular ethnic group,” said Ungredda. She will discuss the results and implications of her research at the conference.

Ungredda’s interest in psychological misdiagnoses developed throughout her academic career. She studied psychology as an undergraduate at the University of Miami and obtained a Masters in Counseling Psychology at Columbia University. The Department of Psychology’s doctoral program, its faculty, and diversity are what attracted Ungredda to Texas A&M University.

“The faculty is very committed to the field of psychology and the program has an equal focus on research and clinical work as well as assessment,” said Ungredda of the department. “It is very important for me to attend an institution that will allow me to continue my research on diversity and improving minority issues.”