Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Sociology

Major Professor

Donileen Loseke, Ph.D.

Keywords

Eating disorders, Chinese, Social constructionism, Lay understandings, Cultural models

Abstract

Anorexia as a nosological category has developed in a western context and is now being applied to people around the world. In order for researchers to know they are asking the right questions about AN as knowledge expands, it is important to understand what meanings Anorexia carries and how those meanings manifest locally. The present study to aid in that understanding by employing a mixed methods (survey and in-depth interviewing) research approach in answering the following question: In what ways are Taiwanese students' explanatory models of anorexia nervosa (AN) congruent with or different from professional understandings derived from the western Bio-medical perspective? In answering this question, this study first addresses the current state of research on anorexia as well as the recent findings from studies done in Asia. Subsequently, the findings of the present research address what are young, Taiwanese adults' notions of the causality of AN.

In particular, the present research found that student explanations of AN are focused predominantly on two causal forces; namely, the desire to be thin or the inability to eat as a result of psychosocial pressure arising from some interpersonal interactions. Additionally, Taiwanese students also maintain that AN can be explained by other less common factors. For instance, significantly more males than females believed that AN could be explained by some physiological dysfunction in the anorectic person. This study seeks to contribute to the literature by examining how college-age Taiwanese understand and conceptualize AN; which in turn may help towards understanding how other research conducted among Chinese populations has produced findings that are incongruent with the expectations suggested by the western, biomedical model of anorexia nervosa. There is further need for cross-cultural research on AN including lay understandings.

This should focus not only on the "accurateness" of lay models as has been the case with the majority of research on lay models of AN in the past, but future research should consider the appropriateness of current research and public health models that influence both research and policy.

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