Discuss Psychological explanations of one eating disorder. (8+16) Psychological explanations of obesity Include the psychodrama and the behaviorism approach. Behaviorism suggests three means by which obesity may occur; classical conditioning, operant conditioning and social learning theory. There Is a great deal of evidence for the behavioral explanation. Classical conditioning is where eating becomes associated with other behaviors that are often routine, leading to eating when not hungry for example snacking whilst watching TV.
Evidence for this as a cause of obesity comes from Fletcher et alls ‘Do something different’ study which shows how breaking such habitual associations prevents overeating, and so leads to weight loss, even for people who are not actually dieting. Furthermore, evidence for the role of operant conditioning, which is related to food being used as a reward, comes from Wanting at al who noted that people can turn to food and eat excessively for comfort, using food as a reward.
However, operant conditioning alone cannot explain obesity, as we know there are biological factors which affect how rewarding retain foods are, therefore the behavioral approach as an explanation of obesity can be seen as reductionism. Operant conditioning, although not offering a full explanation for the causes of obesity, does have some good practical applications. Techniques using operant conditioning have been very successful in reinforcing healthy eating practices.
Devoid and Yankton found Up’s on such a programmer has an average weight loss of between 1 5 and 20 Lbs on the scheme. However, Just because it is successful in treating the eating disorder doesn’t mean it can be seen as a viable cause for obesity. Social Learning theory is the third means by which the behaviorism approach suggests obesity may occur and it suggests that obesity is due to observing and imitating obese role models, particularly people we identify with in some way.
In order for this to be valid, the relationship between one obese person and the role models around them has to be assessed. Chalks and Fowler did Just that and found that a person’s chance of becoming obese Increased by 57% If they had a friend who became obese. However, although many extraneous variables were enthroned in this study, it was still only correlation in nature and correlation does not indicate causation meaning other factors such as biology or culture cannot be ruled out as other possible contributing factors to obesity.
Although there is a great deal of evidence to support the behaviorism approach it can be seen as limited as it ignores biological and genetic factors that also have a great deal of support with regards to causing obesity, egg Standard et al who found a strong relationship between adopted and genetic mother’s weight and no relationship between adopted and adoptive arena’s weight. However, taking the deterministic nature of the behaviorism approach as a positive It does have an optimistic message with regards to beating obesity.
Due to the fact the basis of the behaviorism approach Is that all behaviors are learned and can therefore be unlearned, means that obese people may be more willing to try dieting and other forms of lifestyle change more readily than if they futile. There is a problem with this view however as it focuses on the role of nurture rather than nature which can often cause blame to be put onto parents for their bees children.
While in some cases this can have a positive effect as the parent realizes the necessity of educating their child on healthy food choices and not associating certain activities with food, it can also raise ethical issues as families are not protected from potential emotional harm from being blamed for their obese child’s health issues. In addition to the behaviorism explanation of obesity, the psychodrama explanation of obesity offers an alternative on the causes of this eating disorder.
The psychodrama explanation of obesity is based around Fraud’s incept of problem behaviors in adult hood being due to unresolved conflicts that occurred during childhood development through the psychosocial stages with obesity being linked to unconscious desires of the oral phase. This could be caused by a lack of gratification in the oral stage or over gratification and both could lead to obesity. Evidence for the role of the ID (a structure of the unconscious mind that is concerned with gratifying needs) and oral fixation come from Grant and Borders who found that adult loneliness was a key issue in overeating for all Up’s.
Furthermore, bused Up’s used food to ‘numb pain’ whereas non abused Up’s used it to recreate warmth and nurturing experienced in childhood that they missed in their lonely adult life. This shows the effect of both under and over gratification in the oral stage of psychosocial development. It seems that as an adult, emotional difficulties or trauma may lead to regression to the oral stage thus overeating. Eating may also result as a substitute for affection.
However there are a few issues with this study; there was only a very small sample and the fact that the research was very sensitive means that the reliability of Up’s recall may be questionable. However, as with the behavioral approach, there are practical applications associated with the psychodrama approach for example it highlights the need for social support; if a person does not feel lonely at a time of emotional distress, it seems the regression back to the oral stage and thus overeating may not occur.
In addition to social support, the psychodrama explanation of obesity highlights the cause which can then be used to treat obesity, which in this case is a symptom of a larger problem; Hereford there is optimism attached to this explanation as with the behaviorism approach. Furthermore, Rounded et al has also found a link between childhood abuse and obesity. They found that child sexual abuse is associated with a doubling of odds of obesity in a telephone sample of 4,641 women.
However once again there are methodological issues regarding this research as it is geocentric so cannot be generalizes to the wider population of both men and women- it lacks population validity. There is also further supportive evidence from Williamson et al who found NY form of abuse can lead to an increased chance of obesity showing regression into childhood and the oral phase in order to find missed gratification.
However, there are many issues regarding the psychodrama approach including the fact that it cannot be investigated scientifically using the features of science that psychology attempts to follow. It is speculative in nature and based on philosophy of the mind rather than scientific fact. Therefore the validity and reliability of the explanation of obesity is very low. It can never be scientifically proven due to its nature so will
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