Etiology of Eating Disorders

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As Tiggemann & Pickering (1996, p. 202) noted upon discovering body dissatisfaction among girls and drive for thinness -> associated with exposure of TV “although it is tempting to conclude that watching a large dose of thin idealized images on television leads to dissatisfaction with one’s body, a correlation cannot determine causality or is it that ED -> TV


Peer influence  - a contributor to EDs (e.g., Levine et al. 1994, Shisslak et al. 1998, Stice 1998, Wertheim et al. 1997. Adolescent girls learn certain attitudes (i.e., the importance of slimness) and behaviors (i.e., dieting, purging) from their peers (Levine et al. 1994), both by example and encouragement and by way of teasing for failure to adhere to peer norms. It is difficult to weigh the relative importance of peer influence, as opposed, say, to the influence of the media or the family, which teach the same lessons; some evidence suggests that peers and family are more potent influences than the media (Stice 1998), whereas other studies find the reverse (Wertheim et al. 1997). Moreover, peer influence, like these other influences, is so broad and pervasive that it ought to cause more pathology than actually occurs. Paxton et al.’s (1999) analysis reminds us that not all peers are equally concerned about attaining a slim physique, so blanket condemnation of peer influence or pressure is unwarranted.

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The most obvious way is by encouraging EDs. Families often praise AN patients’ slenderness, and envy the self-control and discipline required to achieve it (Branch & Eurman 1980); this reinforcement frequently persists even when the anorexic becomes severely emaciated. Of course, this reinforcement does not cause the disorder so much as help to perpetuate it. Certainly, people with AN do not require approval in order to starve themselves. In fact, those with AN as often as not use their families’ increasing concerns about their inordinate slimness as a manipulative tool (Branch & Eurman 1980, Minuchin et al. 1978). ...

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