Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


School of Psychology and Social Sciences


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Supervisor

Lynne Cohen


Anorexia nervosa (AN) has been identified as a complex, potentially lethal medical and psychological disorder, typically associated with a poor prognosis (Nordbo, Espeset, Gulliksen, Skarderud, & Holte, 2006; Signorini, De Filippo, Panico, De Caprio, Pasanisi, & Contaldo, 2007, 2007; Strober, Freeman, Lampert, Diamond, Teplinsky, & DeAntonio, 2006). The current review highlights the social and psychological elements attributed to AN by sufferers (Kelley, 1973; Nordbo et al., 2006; Woolrich, Cooper, & Turner, 2006), and through a social-cognitive explanation of attribution theory, identified the conceptual relevance of lay attributions towards AN and the lack of researched connection between the two concepts (Furnham & Hayward, 1997; Kelley, 1973; Stewart, Keel, & Schiavo, 2006). Limitations of the review in terms of the differences between psychologists and lay attributions towards AN, the variable nature of mortality data, and the lack of research papers with a sole focus on attributions towards AN were noted. The current review has identified the conceptual relevance between the psychological aspects of AN and attributions as not mutually exclusive, but integrative, relevant and interconnected (Kelley; Malle, 2006; Nordbo et al., 2006). The present study explored the social attributions made by healthy, asymptomatic women towards anorexia nervosa (AN) sufferers, and AN as a psychological disorder. Attributions towards AN from the sufferer's perspective were widely noted (Couturier & Lock, 2006; de la Rie et al., 2007; Nordbo et al., 2006; Woolrich et al., 2006), however similar studies from the social viewpoint were markedly lacking (Furnham & Hayward, 1997; Stewart et al., 2006). Exploratory qualitative methodology in the form of content analysis through the social constructivist paradigm underpinned the research. The age comparison conducted revealed subtle differences between younger women aged 18-22 years as compared to older women aged between 23-26 years, with younger informants in general tending to make more personalised attributions than older women. Also, the present study confirmed Kelley's (1967; 1973) stance on attribution theory that it was not possible to separate the person from the context of which they were a part. The findings from the present study substantiated this in qualitative terms in regard to AN. Essentially, the present study successfully connected the two concepts within the theoretical context of attribution theory, and supported the dual focus of AN and attributional research as integrative, relevant and interconnected (Kelley, 1973; Malle, 2006; Nordbo et al., 2006).