Sociocultural aetiologies


Basis of sociocultural aetiology

  • Explains Anorexia due to society's emphasis on thinness
  • In Western Socities (food is plentiful) = people value slimness
  • This social phenomenon has changed over time, causing an increase in the prevalence of eating disorders
  • In cultures where thinness is not seen as ideal, Anorexia is very uncommon and barely heard of
  • Subcultures where thinness is especially valued (dancers, actors, models) are more concerned with WEIGHT
  • A study found that 7% of dancers, model and actors are anorexic, compared to 0% of a control group of 81 female Uni students
1 of 6

Social Learning Theory

  • We observe and imitate behaviour of those around us
  • Look for role models to base our behaviour on
  • See their behvaiour rewardedVICARIOUS REINFORCEMENT
  • Where we are more likely to imitate their behaviour
  • Factors affecting imitation: gender, assets
  • We are MORE LIKELY to imitate behaviour of someone the same gender as us
  • Also MORE LIKELY to imitate behaviour of someone who is famous, has money and status (through motivation)
2 of 6

Cultural differences

  • Anorexia is almost unheard of in Asian cultures, but is becoming more prevalent in Japan. which is becoming more westernised
  • African-American girls are bigger and taller on average than their white counterparts, but are significantly less likely to develop an eating disorder
  • This may be due to the fact that media images of the 'ideal' body type are predominantly white
  • Fijian girls studied 3 years after the introduction of TV onto their Island
  • Traditionally, the ideal figure of a girl/woman was robust and round
  • Found that girls who reported watching TV more than 3 nights per week were 50% on average MORE LIKELY to describe themselves as too big & fat
3 of 6

Gender variations

  • The SLT also explains the gender gap in eating disorders 
  • Emphasis on thinness is mostly applied to women
  • Explains why 90% of sufferers are FEMALE
  • Men are subjected to different sociocultural pressures regarding appearance
  • Survery of male American College students found that the majority selected strong, muscular. 'broad shoulders' as the IDEAL BODY TYPE
4 of 6


  • Not all women subjected to images of thin models  develop Anorexia, so sociocultural explanations cannot be the only ones
  • May have a genetic predisposition to the types of cognitions
  • With social factors (e.g. media images of thin models) triggering this Anorexic behaviour
5 of 6


  • The Social Learning Theory explanation of Anoreixa is strongly supported by research
  • Can also explain various cultural and gender variations in prevalence rates, which most other theories cannot do
  • There are inconsistenties in the generalisation of this theory to every person 
  • Therefore, this cannot be the only explanation fo Anorexia (see card 5)
6 of 6


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Psychological disorders resources »