Describe Two Explanations of the Origins of Attitudes to Food and Eating Behaviour

Describe Two Explanations of the Origins of Attitudes to Food and Eating Behaviour. One explanation of the origins of attitudes towards food and eating behaviour is social learning theory, which emphasises the impact that observing other people can have on our own behaviour. Parents can have a massive effect over their children’s eating behaviours for a variety of reasons. The first, and perhaps most obvious reason is that parents purchase and control the foods in their homes, and so the child would have little choice but to eat whatever their parent presented to them.
The child would then grow up with this diet, and would ‘learn’ it. Brown and Ogden reported consistent correlation between parents and their children in terms of snack intake, eating motivations, and body dissatisfaction. Another explanation of the origins of attitudes towards food and eating behaviour are cultural influences. Research has suggested that body dissatisfaction and related eating concerns are more characteristics of white women than black or Asian women.
Ball and Kennedy found that for all ethnic groups, the longer the time spent in Australia, the more the women reported attitudes and eating behaviours similar to Australian women, and this is known as the ‘acculturation effect’. Other studies have found that social class can have an influence on body dissatisfaction and dieting behaviour, finding that they are more common in higher class individuals. Dornbusch studied 7000 American adolescents and found that higher class females show a greater desire to be thin, and were more likely to diet to achieve this.

However other research disputes social learning theories conclusion and suggests that children do not just copy their parents. A study done by Birch and Fisher found that the best predictors of daughters eating behaviours were the mothers dietary restraints and their perception of the risk of the daughters becoming overweight. This disputes the idea that eating behaviour is affected by children directly copying their parents eating behaviour. However, this study was only carried out with mothers and daughters and so may suffer from gender bias.
Social learning theory could also affects people’s eating behaviours through their peers. This shows that more than just parents affects eating behaviour, as was previously implied. Meyer and Gast studied 10-12 year olds and found a significant positive correlation between peer influence and disordered eating. Although this study shows us much valuable information, we can generalise these findings to suggest how 10-12 year olds are affected. They cannot be an indicator for how older people may act, who may be considered to be less vulnerable to peer pressure.
There are also many other obvious explanations as to our eating behaviours. For example, how we have evolved impacts a great deal on what we eat. We prefer fatty and sugary foods as these are what our distant ancestors would have needed to survive. Research has found that female white people are more preoccupied with their weight and participate in more weight loss behaviours. However a study by Mumford et al found that bulimia occurs more predominantly in Asian school children than their white counterparts.
Striegel Moore et al also found that black girls have a higher drive for to be thin than white girls. Both of these studies contest the original idea, that White people have more eating problems. Dornbusch et al found that higher class females had a greater desire to be thin. However a study done by Story et al disputes this. They found the exact opposite, that higher social class meant greater satisfaction with weight and lower rates of weight control behaviour. This shows perhaps that there is no correlation between social class and eating behaviour. This was also suggested by other studies.

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