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The Role of Shame in the Aetiology of Anorexic and Bulimic Psychopathology in a Non-Clinical Population of Young Women

Murray, C. (1999). The Role of Shame in the Aetiology of Anorexic and Bulimic Psychopathology in a Non-Clinical Population of Young Women. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


While a number of risk factors for eating psychopathology have been identified, the psychological mechanisms by which such factors impact on later eating attitudes and behaviour remain to be established. This thesis aimed to test the hypothesis that internalised shame acts as a mediator, and shame-proneness as a moderator, in the relationship between risk factors and the development of eating problems. Three studies, employing independent samples of non-clinical young women are reported. In Study 1, all participants (n = 139) completed questionnaire measures of family function, internalised shame, shame-proneness and anorexic and bulimic psychopathology. In Study 2 (n = 101), all the women completed scales assessing the experience of sexual abuse, internalised shame and bulimic psychopathology. In Study 3, 99 women completed scales assessing internalised shame and bulimic attitudes and behaviour. A sub-group of this sample of women (n = 13) were then administered an unstructured interview protocol assessing a range of experiences in order to provide a more in-depth, qualitative exploration of the links between known risk factors, shame and bulimic psychopathology. Regression analyses were used to test for the mediating and moderating effects of shame in Studies 1 and 2. In Study 3, content analysis was carried out on the unstructured interview data to assess the frequency of shame discourse markers in the recall of a number of past (i.e. familial, pubertal) and present (i.e., current eating habits) experiences. Findings from all three studies consistently demonstrated significant associations between shame and eating psychopathology, suggesting that shame related variables (i.e., internalised shame and shame-proneness) are an important element of these disorders. However, rather than playing an antecedent role, as initially hypothesised, it would appear that shame (i.e. internalised shame) is more related to current disordered eating attitudes and behaviour. The findings are discussed in light of current conceptualisations of the development and nature of eating problems. It is proposed that it is important to distinguish between those factors which predispose for, and those which perpetuate, eating psychopathology.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Murray thesis 1999 PDF-A.pdf]
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