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Attitudes to food and eating behaviour
People hold different attitudes towards eating and food is associated with a multitude
of meanings e.g. food can represent comfort when you are unhappy or can be used as
distraction when bored. When we begin to use food to resolve an underlying emotional
issue, there is a problem.
1. Cultural influences
Food attitudes and preferences vary between different cultures.
Children in the UK may develop positive attitudes to pizza, chips, chicken nuggets
etc as these foods are often given as a `treat'.
Children in India may believe that home-cooked, spicier foods taste better
whereas children in Japan may prefer a fish-based diet.
Much of the research into attitudes to food and eating behaviour has focused on
Research suggests that body dissatisfaction and related eating
concerns/disorders are more characteristic of white women than black or Asian
Ball and Kenardy (2002) studied over 14000 women aged 18-23 in Australia. For
all ethnic groups, the longer the time spent in Australia, the more the women
reported attitudes and eating behaviours similar to women born in Australia; their
food preferences were changed by the different culture.
However, other studies have found the opposite.
Mumford et al (1991) found that the incidence of bulimia was great among Asian
schoolgirls than among white counterparts.
Rozin et al (1999) claim that food functions differently in the minds and lives of
people from different cultures. Most research finds significant cultural
differences in food preferences and beliefs about the importance of diet for
Some research suggests that body dissatisfaction, dieting behaviour and eating
disorders are more common in higher-class individuals.
Dornbusch et al (1984) surveyed 7000 American adolescents and concluded that
higher-class females had a greater desire to be thin and were more likely to diet
to achieve this than lower-class females.
However, this relationship is not straightforward.
Story et al (1995) found that in a sample of American students, higher social class
was related to greater satisfaction with weight and lower rates of weight-control
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Exposure to food
Some people show fear and avoidance of new foods: neophobia.
Research has found that exposure to new foods can change children's
Birch and Marlin (1982) found a direct relationship between exposure to new
foods and food preference, suggesting that we like foods that we are most
3. Social learning
The Social Learning Theory describes the impact of observing other people's
behaviour on one's own behaviour- `modelling' or `observational learning.
Can involve learning from peers, parents or the media.…read more
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Birch ad Fisher (2000) found that the best predictors of daughters' eating
behaviour were the mothers' dietary restraint and their perception of the risks of
the daughters becoming overweight.
Food and control
Children's positive attitudes to unhealthy foods may be the result of parents
being too controlling over their children's eating; when the child is not allowed
something it instantly becomes more attractive.
However, other factors must be involved in the production of attitudes to food.…read more