Objectification Theory: Of relevance for eating disorder researchers and clinicians?
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Background There is a large and expanding body of research on Objectification Theory. Central to the theory is the proposition that self‐objectification results in shame and anxiety surrounding the body, and as a consequence, the development of eating disorders. However, the theory and research have been developed and reported in the gender and social psychological literatures rather than the clinical literature. Accordingly, the goal of this article is to present an account of Objectification Theory to a clinical audience. Methods The article presents a brief overview of Objectification Theory, followed by a narrative review of the related research. It then identifies clinical implications for research and practice in the area of eating disorders. Results There is substantial research evidence, both correlational and experimental, supporting the predictions of Objectification Theory as they pertain to disordered eating. In particular, self‐objectification is linked to disordered eating through the mechanisms of body shame and appearance anxiety. Conclusions Although Objectification Theory does not attempt to encompass all major factors contributing to the development of eating disorders (e.g., genetics, temperament), its explicit account of social forces offers some useful clinical insights towards the conceptualisation, treatment, and prevention of eating disorders. These, in turn, offer a number of potentially fruitful avenues for future research.
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