Discuss factors influencing attitudes to food and/or eating behaviour. (8+16 marks)
One explanation of our attitudes to food is outlined in the social learning theory which is the idea that children acquire attitudes towards food by observing their parents; our parents’ attitude to food inevitably affects us because they control what foods are brought into the house and what meals are served. Brown and Ogden (2004)reported consistent correlations between parents and their children in terms of snack intake, eating motivations and body dissatisfaction. This is because the offspring have observed their parents’ behaviour and are therefore motivated to reproduce similar behaviour. Birch and Fisher support this explanation as they found a correlation between a daughters’ eating behaviour and the dietary restraint of the mother. Social learning theory also predicts that media has an influence on eating behaviour and attitude to food. MacIntyre et al found that media can affect what we eat as well as our attitudes towards certain foods.
Research shows how the social learning theory is applicable to any form of role model as seen in the research by Meyer and Gast who surveyed 10-12 year olds and found a significant positive correlation between peer influences and disordered eating. The ‘likeability’ of peers was considered the most important factor in the relationship between children and food as Lowe, Dowey and Horne prove by claiming once a child reaches school age, modelling using admired peers can increase the consumption of fruit and vegetables. This supports other evidence proving that social learning and modelling has significant effect on our attitudes to food.
Much of the research into the social learning theory provides correlational data which provides an important link between observation of role models and our eating behaviour, however the research is low in external validity because it doesn’t confirm whether attitudes towards food is a symptom or cause of the Social Learning Theory. As a consequence there could be other explanations why our behaviour towards food is specifically what it is. For example people appear to learn from the media about healthy eating. However, researchers also state that eating behaviours are limited to social factors such as age and income. People cannot always act on what they have learnt so it is difficult…