In the article Cultural Effects on Eating Attitudes in Israeli Subpopulations and Hospitalized Anorectics” (Apter et al., 1994), the authors introduce their thesis: the clash between the western ideology of the teenage feminine body and the traditional Israeli subpopulation views leads to an increasing amount of anorexia nervosa proportional 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 proves their thesis by illustrating the method they used and the results they attained from conducting the survey. Apter explains that anorexia nervosa is a severe eating disorder that mostly affects upper and middle-class teenage girls in the Western world. This disease is both physically and psychologically damaging to these girls, as they revolve their lives around thinness and self-appearance. 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, eating disorders have increased substantially over the past two decades. Many people believe that this increase is due to the fashion industry. The fashionable female figure of today has become thinner and more tubular (Szmulker, McCance, McCrone, & Hunter, 1986). Apter believes that thinness is increasingly seen as a symbol of the feminine ideal. He finds that the Western role of women now includes success in the workforce, sexual attractiveness, as well as traditional roles as nurturing wives and mothers.
Apter hypothesizes that the added stress of Western ideology, combined with the non-Western ethnic origin of these adolescents, could create complications such that attitudes towards food will begin to resemble those 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. To test their hypothesis, they surveyed 783 adolescent girls in 10 Israeli subpopulations, as well as a group of hospitalized anorectics, using a selected group of hospitalized anorectics as a control. 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 has been 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 presumably of sexuality. The second test conducted was a 17-question survey that dealt with the way the subjects viewed their bodies. According to the control group, the higher the scores on the tests, the more likely the subjects have an eating disorder. In the survey results, Apter et al found that the Kibbutz resembled the scores closest to those of the anorectics; however, the oral control factor score was lower than expected.
Apter defends attributing their lower score on the survey to the Muslim culture’s communal dining rooms.” Due to the limited Western influence in their culture, the prediction of a lower score was proven false. The Muslim group scored low in body image pathology and high in the dieting factor. Apter supports their hypothesis by stating that “the Muslim group has the highest average weight (53.8 kg), so their concern with dieting may reveal a desire to lose weight rather than an insidious ‘slenderness culture.'” While their findings require further investigation, they believe that Muslims are not at risk for eating disorders.
From these results, Apter et al conclude that due to the clashing values between Western ideology of the teenage feminine body and traditional Israeli subpopulation views, there is an increasing amount of anorexia nervosa proportionate to the severity of Western influence. However, I feel that Apter et al did not successfully incorporate all aspects when trying to prove their hypothesis. They only took into account the aspects of anorexia nervosa in each subculture and did not consider the amount of Western influence in each subculture. To make the proof of their hypothesis more complete, Apter et al should have conducted some sort of test or survey to determine how much Western influence was present in each subculture.