Friday, September 01, 2006

Evaluation Points You Should Know About Lifestyles and Health Behaviours

Point 1:Determinism

Determinism is apparent in this topic of because it is assumed that certain types of personality, for example Type A, will determine the individuals health behaviours. Also the Health Belief Model essentialy assumes that cognitive processes will determine health behaviours and lifestyle. The problem here is that a deterministic approach may not enable us to fully understand why people engage in the health behaviours and lifestyles that they do. Determinism limits our understanding because it does not allow us to grasp the complexity of this issue. For example, it is highly probable that habit, social pressure, material circumstances, past experience and modelled behaviour all influence our health behaviours and lifestyle not just cognitive processes. Further, these points are even more relevant in highlighting the problematic nature of assuming that a certain personality type will be the determining factor in shaping health behaviours. Thus we can conclude that the adoption of a deterministic approach to understanding why people do and do not engage in certain health behaviours is not a valid way of studying this phenomenon.

In addition we may end up 'blaming the victim'. this is because such approaches lead us to believe that you are healthy or otherwise because of what you did e.g. having a certain personality type or thinking about health in certain ways. Thus the poor health of others is due to something about them rather than the other numerous factors, psychological, social, material and biological, that are needed to create a lack of health within the individual. Thus the usefulness of adopting a deterministic viewpoint may not be advantageous to the people we are trying to help.

Determinism ignores other factors. We want to know this information to use it to improve health behaviours. If we adopt a deterministic approach we ignore other variables that could cause or contribute to poor health, therefore how can you rectify this problem thoroughly? How far this information will be useful may well depend on the extent of the determinism apparant within the research.

Point 2: Cognitive Psychology

For example, the Health Belief Model was developed directly from cognitive psych. It shares the same assumption that we process information on a fairly rational level. Therefore unconscious processes such as emotion and habit aren't a part of this. Are we rational, is that the only way we make decisions? You can always contrast Freud with this viewpoint, as he argued that unconscious/ non-rational processes often determine what we do, which is the opposite to Cognitive psych. The Health Belief Model assumes that we are very rational but will our health behaviours also be affected by things that we are not aware off, such as unconscious motivations e.g. smoking- a girl may smoke and give rational reasons such as she likes the taste and that it makes her 'look cool'. However a Freudian approach may argue that she has an oral fixation. Or a social psychologist may argue that she is conforming to group norms and expectations even though she is unaware of this process. Therefore this problem can never be just cognitive. Whilst it is useful to just look at one area of psychology, as it simplifies an issue, nevertheless it won't give us a complete picture of the phenomenon of study.

Point 3: Measurement

Many of the studies you may have refered to in the descriptive part of your essay will only have taken a 'snap-shot' of the Ps health behaviours and lifetstyle. However we want longitudinal designs as we need to see how maturation affects people health behaviours; if you are talking about lifestyles and behaviours surely this occurs over time and therefore need a longitudinal design? If you want to create an intervention/way to change non-healthy lifestyles, you will need to know how these lifestyles came about and you may only get this from a longitudinal design. Snap-shot studies will be limited in how far they can provide us with this type of understanding.

Point 4: Correlation

A different methodological point is that the data on personality types (Type A and B) and health behaviours is purely correlational. Meaning that we can say there is a close association between a certain personality type and certain health behaviours but this does not mean that the personality cause the behaviours, just that they are associated in some way. Association does not establish causation.

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