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Acculturation and disordered eating : an exploration of disordered eating practices across cultures.

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Research suggests that the eating disorders (anorexia nervosa and bulimia) represent a caricature of the sociocultural values placed on young women to achieve thinness and beauty ideals. Although eating disorders have long been thought to occur only in White, "Western" cultures, more recent research suggests that women from different cultural groups are presenting with unhealthy eating attitudes and behaviours. In South Africa's pluralistic cultural context, the effects ofcontinuous first-hand contact between cultures (acculturation) is an important area of research, especially in light ofthe hypothesised etiological role ofsociocultural factors in eating disorders. The present study aims to address the association between acculturation and disordered eating in a non-clinical sample of nursing students in Pietermaritzburg. Additionally, it aims to contribute to the development of a local acculturation instrument. The South African Acculturation Scale (SAAS) was developed based on the work of Berry (1976), Berry, Trimble and Olmedo (1986) and Berry (1997). The Individualism-Collectivism (INDCOL) scale (Hui, 1988) and the Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI, Garner & Olmsted, 1984) were included in the questionnaire profile A pilot study was undertaken on 28 students in the health arena, in order to assess the psychometric properties of the assessment instruments. The results of the pilot study yielded adequate reliability co-efficients for the SAAS, although the INDCOL scale yielded unexpectedly inconsistent results. The formal study adopted a cross-sectional design on a population of 155 nursing students. The sample consisted of37 Blacks, 33 Whites, 11 Indians and 7 Coloureds between 19 and 28 years of age. Additionally, the sample included 49 Blacks, 3 Whites, 11 Indians and 4 Coloureds greater than, or equal to 29 years ofage. The research findings suggest that both Black and White respondents display a propensity towards disordered eating. Black respondents scored higher on measures of the psychological correlates of eating disorders, and Whites scored higher on the attitudinal and behavioural measures of disordered eating. Partial support was obtained for the hypothesis that assimilation and individualist values are correlated to eating disorder pathology. The findings suggest that acculturating young women from diverse cultural and racial backgrounds present with a degree of risk for the development of eating disorders.


Thesis (M.Soc.Sc) - University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2000.


Eating disorders--Cross-cultural studies., Eating disorders--Psychological aspects., Eating disorders--KwaZulu-Natal., Theses--Psychology.