Autonomy and Submissiveness as Cognitive and Cultural Factors Influencing Eating Disorders in Italy and Sweden: An Exploratory Study


  • Sandra Sassaroli
  • Guido Veronese
  • Lauri Nevonen
  • Francesca Fiore
  • Franceso Centorame
  • Ettore Favaretto
  • Giovanni Maria Ruggiero


The aim of this exploratory study was to investigate the correlation between cultural and psychological factors in relation to predicting eating disorders in two different non-clinical Italian (n = 61) and Swedish (n = 31) female populations, thought to have different cultures and lifestyles. The Swedish sample would reflect an emancipated model of women pursuing autonomy and freedom but also an ideal of thinness, while the Italian sample would reflect a difficult transition from traditional submissiveness to modern autonomy. Both groups completed self-report instruments assessing cultural values (e.g., collectivism and individualism) and features of eating disorders (e.g., drive for thinness, bulimia, body dissatisfaction, self-esteem, parental criticism and perfectionism). Swedish women were found to display higher levels of bulimia, perfectionism, and individualism than Italian women, while regression analysis showed that in the Italian sample high levels of collectivism were correlated with measures of EDs. The results support the hypothesis that EDs are linked with both modern values of autonomy, independence and emancipation, and situations of cultural transition in which women are simultaneously exposed to traditional models of submission and opportunities for emancipation and autonomy.