<i>A Critique of the Systemic and Sociological Approaches to Eating Disorders</i>

Simona Giordano

in Understanding Eating Disorders

Published in print August 2005 | ISBN: 9780199269747
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191603129 | DOI:

Series: Issues in Biomedical Ethics

 A Critique of the Systemic and Sociological Approaches to Eating Disorders

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This chapter offers a critique of systemic and sociological approaches to eating disorders. The fundamental assumption of these approaches is that mental disorders are adaptations to illogic and deviant relational systems. Mental disorders are thus transactional problems. The subjects of the analysis of systemic approaches may be two (for example, mother and daughter), three (sufferer and parents), more than three (the whole family), indeterminate (sufferer and social context), or intergenerational (it may include the parents of the sufferer’s parents). This chapter argues that these approaches provide important information on eating disorders. However, it moves three critiques to them. First, they often utilise the same moral categories that support eating disorders, and thus risk reinforcing the moral logic that is at the heart of the disorder. Second, they generally suggest that the variables in the family or society may cause or explain eating disorders, whereas this chapter takes the view that the variables that are identified in the systems give elements to aid in the understanding of what the person feels and experiences, but cannot cause or explain eating disorders. Third, these approaches risk presenting the individual as determined by the context in which he or she lives. The role of the individual in the articulation of external influences is emphasized.

Keywords: systemic approach; eating disorders; sociological analysis; methodological problems; fallacious explanations; individual

Chapter.  5300 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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