Women's eating attitudes and body image in coed and single-sex high schools: An exploration of social contagion
An investigation of the social pressure and conformity to groups specific to eating attitudes and body image of 325 secondary school female students from five independent secondary schools was performed. Eating attitudes and body image were determined using the Eating Disorders Inventory 2 (Garner, 1990), in addition to the Personal Appearances Comparison Scale, in a two time administration study performed during the school year. Social groups were determined using a cluster analysis of friendship choices. Significant shifting of individual attitudes toward mean friendship cluster attitudes was found over the course of this study. In general the findings of this study indicate that friendship groups influence students' eating attitudes and behaviors. However, contrary to the hypothesis, students did not shift friendship groups significantly if their EDI score differed from their cluster's mean score. Eating disorder symptomology, as indicated by the EDI-2, decreased over time. Significant differences in eating attitudes were also found between students at the boarding and day schools. The students in the higher grades had significantly higher scores on the EDI-2 than the younger students.