Body-, eating-, and exercise-related social comparison behavior and disordered eating in college women in the U.S. and Iran: A cross-cultural comparison

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Eating Behaviors


Wearing of the hijab is associated with lower eating disorder (ED) attitudes and behaviors in women. However, this potential buffering role of the hijab has been questioned in countries, such as Iran, where its wearing is compulsory. Further, cross-cultural comparisons between disordered eating behaviors and correlates in Iranian and U.S. women are lacking. This study examines social-cognitive correlates of disordered eating in U.S. and Iranian women, comparing rates of ED- related social comparison and eating pathology. College women in the U.S. (n = 180) and Iran (n = 384) completed the Body, Eating, and Exercise Comparison Orientation Measure (BEECOM) and the Eating Disorder Examination-Questionnaire (EDE-Q) in one session. One-way analyses of covariance and partial correlations were used to test the mean differences and inter-correlations between the variables among U.S. and Iranian women. U.S. women endorsed higher BEECOM scores and higher levels of overvaluation of weight and shape and dietary restraint compared to Iranians. Most BEECOM subscales and disordered eating symptoms were inter-correlated in each culture. The tendency to engage in exercise comparison was not significantly correlated with excessive exercise for U.S. women. Correlations between variables were stronger for U.S. women compared to Iranian women. While the ED-related social comparison levels were higher for U.S. women, the typical Western patterns of social comparison and disordered eating extend to Iranian women. Eating disorder-related social comparison is a recommended clinical target in both Eastern and Western cultures.


Psychological Science

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