Critical Summary of Cultural Effects on Eating Attitudes in Israeli Subpopulations and Hospitalized Anorectics


In the article "Cultural Effects on Eating Attitudes in Israeli Subpopulations and Hospitalized Anorectics (Apter Et Al, 1994), the authors introduce to us their thesis: due to the clashing values between the western ideology of the teenage feminine body and the traditional Israeli subpopulation views, there is an increasing amount of anorexia nervosa proportionate to the severity of the western influence. To test their hypothesis, Apter surveyed adolescent Israeli girls in 10 subpopulations of Israeli culture. Throughout the rest of the article, Apter goes on to prove their thesis by illustrating to us the method they instantiated as well as the results they attained from conducting the survey.
Apter explains to us that anorexia nervosa is a severe eating disorder that affects mostly upper & middle class teenage girls in the western world. This disease is both physically and psychologically damaging to these girls. For these girls, thinness and self-appearance is what they revolve their lives around. Studies conclude that people in professions where physical appearance is of extreme importance are more likely to develop an eating disorder. In the Western world, over the past two decades eating disorders have increased substantially. People believe that this increase in eating disorders is due to the fashion industry. The fashionable female figure of today has become thinner and more tubular (Szmulker, McCance, McCrone, & Hunter, 1986).
In the world today, Apter believes that thinness is more and more a symbol of the feminine ideal. He finds that the Western role of a woman is now beginning to include success in the work force, sexually attractive as well as the traditional roles as nurturant wives and mothers. Apter hypothesizes that this added stress of Western ideology combined with the non-Western ethnic origin of these adolescents could create complications such that the attitudes towards food will begin to resemble that of anorectics. In contrast, Apter also hypothesizes that adolescents of non-Western ethnic origin less exposed to Western ideology would have less of a chance of attaining an eating disorder. Using a selected group of hospitalized anorectics as a control, they tested their hypothesis by surveying 783 adolescent girls in 10 Israeli subpopulations as well as a group of hospitalized anorectics.
The first test conducted in the survey was the shortened form of the Eating Attitude Test known as the EAT-26. This test was administered by school nurses and is proven to detect instances and levels of eating disorders. The determining factor in this test, as stated by Apter, "was the oral control factor - an indicator of impulsivity and presumable of sexuality." The second test conducted, was a 17-question survey that dealt with the way they subjects viewed their body. As indicated by the control group, the higher the scores on the tests, the more likely the subjects have an eating disorder.
In the results of the survey, Apter et Al found that the Kibbutz resembled the scores closest to that of the anorectics; however, the oral control factor score was lower than expected. Apter defends this by attributing it to their "communal dining rooms." Because of the low Western influence in the Muslim culture, the prediction that they would have a lower score on the survey was false. They scored low in the body image pathology and high on the dieting factor. Apter stays with his hypothesis by indicating that "the Muslim group has the highest average weight (53.8 kg), so that their concern with dieting may reveal a desire to lose weight rather than insidious 'slenderness culture." They also state that their findings do require further investigation; however, they feel that the Muslims are not at risk for eating disorders.
From these results, Apter et Al concludes his thesis that: due to the clashing values between the western ideology of the teenage feminine body and the traditional Israeli subpopulation views, there is an increasing amount of anorexia nervosa proportionate to the severity of the western influence.
I feel that Apter et Al did not successfully incorporate all aspects when trying to prove their hypothesis. I say this because they only took into account the aspects of anorexia nervosa in each subculture. They did not take into account the amount of Western influence in each