Social influences on eating disordered behavior: A qualitative analysis
Rowland, Sarah A.
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Eating disorders are increasing in prominence, prevalence, and presence in society. The implications are far reaching and detrimental, affecting individuals, families, and communities. This study sought to better understand the experiences of women who have had an eating disorder and their perspectives on the social influences on their eating disordered behaviors. More specifically, women were asked about their perceptions of the role of the media, self-objectification, and social contagion and its effects on their eating disordered behaviors. Twelve women who had or currently have an eating disorder were recruited from flyers in and around Buffalo, NY to participate in an interview. Through this interview, questions were carefully chosen to capture the unique experiences and perspectives of each participant. Grounded theory methodology was used to analyze the responses given from women. Results of the analysis suggest that social influences played a large role in the development and or continuation of eating disordered behaviors. Participants also implicated other etiological and symptom maintaining influences including: the media, self-objectification, and social contagion. These findings have pertinent information for prevention and intervention efforts as well as open the door for future investigations.