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Thinness in the Pursuit for Social Safeness: An Integrative Model of Social Rank Mentality to Explain Eating Psychopathology



The current study tests a model based on social rank mentality investigating whether women who feel inferior and believe others see them negatively, and feel under pressure to compete to avoid social inferiority, present increased body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness and whether these associations are mediated by distinct emotional regulation processes. The predictions from the model proposed were examined through path analyses, in a sample of 125 women from the general population and 102 patients with eating disorders.

Results showed that the path model explained 51% of body dissatisfaction variance and 61% of drive for thinness and allowed us to confirm that social ranking variables increased drive for thinness through higher levels of self-criticism and lower levels of self-compassion.

The findings suggest that the nuclear eating disorders' features arise as a result of a more self-critical and less compassionate attitude with the self, in the context of a mentality focused on social ranking and competition. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Key Practitioner Message

  • The current study explores an innovative comprehensive model based on social rank theory to understand eating disorders' symptoms in women.
  • A mentality focused on ranking, shame and competition predicts body image dissatisfaction.
  • This ranking-focused mentality, along with body image dissatisfaction, leads to drive for thinness through increased self-criticism and decreased self-compassion.
  • These findings support the emergent psychotherapeutic approaches for eating disorders that target self-criticism and self-compassion.