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Attitudes to food and the success and failure
of dieting…read more

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Attitudes to food
People hold many different attitudes to specific aspects of their
lives, and in the same way they also hold different attitudes
towards eating, and food is associated with a multitude of
meanings. For example, food can represent comfort when you are
feeling unhappy; it can be used as a distraction when you are bored,
or a way of showing someone they are special. This complex array
of meanings is summarised by Todhunter (1973): `Food is prestige,
status and wealth...There are Sunday foods and weekday foods,
family foods and guest foods; foods with magical properties and
health and disease foods.'
One approach to the study of eating behaviour focuses on an
individual's attitudes to food. This research tends to concentrate on
a number of core cognitions about food, including the following:
Subjective norms
Perceptions of risk
Perceptions of severity…read more

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The developmental approach
Much research has focused on the
processes that are associated with
eating behaviour and has asked
questions such as `how do we learn
what to eat?' These questions are
usually investigated from a
developmental perspective, which
focuses on the importance of childhood
and families.…read more

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Social learning
Research has investigated the extent to which watching other people eat
influences children's eating behaviour. A study by Birch et al (1980) used
peer modelling to change children's preference for vegetables. On four
consecutive days, the children participating in the study were seated next to
children who preferred a different vegetable to themselves (peas versus
carrots). By the end of the study, the children showed a definite shift in their
vegetable preference, which was still evident as a follow-up assessment
several weeks later. Those who initially did not like peas at the outset did
like them by the end of the study, and those who initially did not like carrots
also showed a shift in their food preferences.
Parental attitudes to food and eating behaviours are also central to the
process of social learning. For example, Olivera et al (1992) reported a clear
relationship between mothers' food intake for most nutrients and their pre-
school children, and suggested that parents could be targeted to try to
improve children's diets. Similarly, Brown and Ogden (2004) reported
consistent correlations between parents and their children in terms of
reported snack-food intake and eating motivations. Parental behaviour and
attitudes are therefore central to the process of social learning, with
research highlighting a positive correlation between the diets of parents and
their children.…read more

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Meyer and Gast surveyed 12-year-olds
and found a positive correlation between
peer influence and disordered eating.
`likeability' of peers was the most
influential factor.
Birch and Fisher found that the best
predictors of daughters' eating behaviours
were their mothers' dietary restraint and
their perception of the risk of their
daughters becoming overweight.
Klesges et al. (1991) found that children
selected different foods when they were
being watched by their parents compared
to when they were not.…read more

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