Social identity transition: the role of social identity in eating disorder recovery

Streete, J.L. ORCID: 0000-0002-6333-4978, 2020. Social identity transition: the role of social identity in eating disorder recovery. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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Disordered eating recovery is often conceptualised as recovering from physical and psychological features (e.g., weight restoration, reduction in binge eating, self-esteem no longer being tied to weight, no longer over-evaluating weight, and body shape). However, researchers have argued that recovery is not an individualistic process, that it is intertwined with a process of social identity change (Best et al., 2016), thus, recovering socially is also a crucial component of disordered eating recovery (De Vos et al., 2017). Initial research shows that social identities have an important role within disordered eating recovery (Ison & Kent, 2010; McNamara & Parsons, 2016), however, there is a lack of knowledge regarding the more specific nuances of social identities throughout disordered eating recovery. To address this, the present research explored the relationship between social identities and disordered eating recovery.

An adapted exploratory sequential mixed method approach was undertaken to address the research question and subsequent objectives. Study 1a (Chapter 4) used an online Social Identity Mapping tool to quantitatively and qualitatively explore the composition of social identity networks held by people in disordered eating recovery (N= 15). Study 1b (Chapter 5) qualitatively explored what disordered eating recovery meant to people who identified as in recovery and how social groups featured throughout disordered eating recovery(N= 15). Based on the conclusions from Study 1, Study 2 was a cross-sectional (N= 185; Chapter 6) and longitudinal (N= 99; Chapter 7) exploration of the relationship between group identifications and mental health/well-being for people seeking disordered eating recovery. The samples used across this thesis all reported seeking and/or being in disordered eating recovery and varied in age (range: 18-62).

There are four main original contributions from the present research. (1) This body of work is the first to show people in disordered eating recovery belong to a wide variety of groups that can be beneficial for disordered eating recovery (e.g., family, friends, work friends, hobby groups, opinion-based groups, and demographic groups). Not only were a variety of group found, but understanding the composition of social groups (e.g., positivity, compatibility, and supportiveness of recovery) aids the knowledge development regarding the relationship between social groups and disordered eating recovery. Therefore, this research not only extends previous knowledge but provides an initial understanding about the composition of social groups and social identity networks of people seeking/ in disordered eating recovery. (2) This research established the presence of the ‘uninvolved’ group, an important but complex group. The ‘uninvolved’ group represents groups not aware or involved in the recovery process but are perceived to be supportive. Through this research it can be argued that not all social groups need to be aware of or involved in the disordered eating recovery process, but they need to enable the person recovering to enact their ‘normal’ life as this will aid their recovery. (3) This work was the first to establish the nature of disclosure and concealment of disordered eating to social groups, throughout disordered eating recovery. Showing that both being open and concealing disordered eating from social groups were positive for disordered eating recovery and general health and well-being (anxiety symptoms, depression symptoms, and satisfaction with life). (4) This research was the first to show that a process of social identity change was intertwined with disordered eating recovery: participants created distance from social groups perceived as unsupportive or that do not fit with recovery, maintained important and supportive groups, and gained new groups that aligned with their recovery. Therefore, the present research showed that social groups and identification with those groups are an important part of disordered eating recovery. As such, it is argued that disordered eating recovery definitions should incorporate social recovery, more specifically a process of social identity change, alongside psychological and physical recovery.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Streete, J.L.
Date: December 2020
Rights: This work is the intellectual property of the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed in the owner(s) of the Intellectual Property Rights.
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 07 Apr 2022 12:47
Last Modified: 07 Apr 2022 12:47

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