(6) Social Learning Theory and Anorexia Nervosa

  • Created by: bintahall
  • Created on: 26-03-19 12:04

Influence of Social Learning on Anorexia Nervosa

Modelling: For social learning to take place there must be a 'model' who may be parents/peers or someone in the media. They provide examples of attitudes to food or dieting behaviour that can be observed by the individual and imitated by them.

Reinforcement: Individual imitates a model's behaviour, others respond to the imitated behaviour. Positive response = makes individual feel better about themselves so they continue the behaviour (losing weight). May also see others being reinforced for their thinness (vicarious reinforcement) so they assume they'll havethe same response so then attempt to lose weight.

Maternal role models: Research suggests problematic eating behaviour is common in families of individuals with ED - focused mainly on mother-daughter relationship, some suggest that mothers 'model' weight concerns for their daughters. Studies found similarities between mothers and daughters restraint/dieting behaviours amoung children as young as 10. Other research - mothers who complain about their weight = children more likely to have weight concerns. Influence greater for daughters than sons.

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Influence of Social Learning on Anorexia Nervosa

Peer Influences: US study found dieting amoung friends related to unhealthy weight control behaviours - diet pills/purging. Researchers found overweight girls/underweight boys most likely to be teased by peers - suggests through teasing peers enforce gender-bias ideals. Study examined the association between poor dieting and drive for thinness in +2,000 men and women of 3 age groups. Results: Significant associations between perceived peer dieting and a drive for thinness in both. Women = strongest in adolescence and for same-sex peers. Men = didn't differ through age group or sex of peers.

Media Influences: Portrayal of thin models significantly contributes to body image concerns. It doesn't affect everyone in the same way - people with low self-esteem more likely to compare themselves to media - plays a part in development of ED. Researchers found that girls with low self-esteem ages 11-12 more likely to develop an ED at 15-17. A report published by BMA - the degree of thiness of models is unacheiveable and biologically inappropriate. Study by Health magazine - in the US 32% of female characters on TV underwight compared to 5% of the female audience.

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Maternal influence is more complex than social learning: Research on role of mothers as models for EDs for their daughters = inconsistent results. Researchers found no evidence for daughters imitating the weight concern of their parents. Others found that although mothers and daughters were similar in weight/BMI there were no associations for their restrained eating/body dissatisfication - thus they don't support the modelling hypothesis that ED's passed from mother to daughter - suggested that it may be the nature of their relationship/degree of enmeshment.

Research support for peer influences: Researchers investigated the effect of peer weight on the likelihood of an individual developing anorexia. Found that those who had peers with a larger BMI = lower likelyhood of developng an ED - more common in young women. Suggests that having peers with average/higher BMI 'protect' individuals from ED's - having peers with lower BMI = development of AN more likely.

Another look at peer influences: Research doesn't always show a significant relationship between peer influence and development of AN. Researchers found no correlation amoung friends on measured of disordered eating in a teen sample - even though other research found their was (BMI previous card). Other research - not all forms of teasing lead to body dissatisfaction - Cash interviewed young women about teasing during teen years. Found that is was the severity of the teasing that affects body-image.

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Evaluation (continued)

Research support for media influences: Eating attitudes/behaviours studied amoung teen Fijan girls after the introduction of TV to Fiji. After exposure to TV they had a desire to lose weight to be more like Western TV characters. However, other reseach = instructional intervention prior to media exposure to idealised female images prevents the effects of exposure - suggests that the media can be powerful influence in development of ED but can be prevented through education.

Not all forms of media have the same effects: Studies found reading magazines is more consistent with the development of ED's than TV. Reseachers found no association between TV exposure and ED's but did in reading fitness magazines. Studies of undergraduate women found an association between reading fashion magazines and having preference for lower weight and lower confidence about body image. 

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