Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Psychology


This thesis takes a cross-cultural approach to the investigation of factors affecting body image and eating attitudes, addressing Pakistani, Pakistani-Australian and Australian cultures. The sociocultural factors that could account for the differences in body image and eating attitudes across the two cultures and within each culture are investigated. In particular, the role of value orientations is examined.

The thesis contains a three-phase study, with an additional preliminary phase relating the translation and development of research instruments. The body image scales and questionnaires, which were available only in English, were translated into Urdu. A scale was also developed in order to measure the acculturation of Pakistani participants to Western culture, based on the available acculturation scales for other ethnic groups. All three phases of the study used cross-cultural samples. Phase One compared Australian and Pakistani females on body image and eating attitudes. The sample consisted of Caucasian-Australian and Pakistani first year university students, ranging in age from 17 to 22. The Pakistani sample was sub-divided into two groups: Urdumedium and English-medium, representing the middle and upper social classes respectively. Phase Two, using the same samples, investigated the role of value orientations in explaining the body image variations across the two cultures as well as within each culture. Phase Three was a replication of the first two studies on the Pakistani-Australian female sample. Owing to the smaller sample size of this group, it was compared with randomly drawn subsets of main samples of Australian and Pakistani females.

The results revealed that, although all the groups identified a similar body shape as the 'ideal', the Australian and Pakistani-Australian females expressed significantly higher levels of body dissatisfaction on all measures of body image than did the Pakistani females. On eating attitudes as well, the Australian and Pakistani-Australian groups did not show differences. Some unexpected findings were obtained on the Eating Attitudes Test, where the Urdu-medium Pakistani group scored higher than did the Australian group, however the Australian females expressed greater dieting and bulimic tendencies, on the same measure, than did both of the home Pakistani groups.

There were observed significant differences in value orientations across the two cultures, but not much between the two home Pakistani groups. A generally consistent pattern of relationships emerged in both cultures where greater collectivist tendencies, higher value placed on physical fitness (being healthy) and self-acceptance and lower emphasis on materialism related positively with positive body image and healthy eating attitudes. Higher religious belief and practice was related significantly positively with the positive body image in the Pakistani samples but not in the Australian sample. The degree of acculturation was related positively to body image dissatisfaction in the Pakistani group but negatively in the Pakistani-Australian group.

In general, the findings indicated the relevance of value orientations to body image and eating problems, and identified correlates of body image and eating disturbances that are specific to one culture as well as those which apply to diverse cultures. It is argued that subsequent elaboration and comparison of cultural values and quality of life satisfaction in both Eastern and Western cultures may help to identify certain core values that would be applicable to both cultures and would assist young women to withstand the global changes taking place today.