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Prospective predictors of body dissatisfaction and disordered eating attitudes in preadolescent girls: a 2-year study

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Elizabeth EvansORCiD, Dr Lynda Boothroyd


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Longitudinal research into the development of body dissatisfaction and disordered eating attitudes in girls is lacking. The current study examined prospective predictors of body dissatisfaction and disordered eating attitudes in preadolescents. A school-based opportunity sample of 138 girls completed measures of adiposity (BMI z-score), perfectionism (CAPS), anxiety (MASC), body dissatisfaction (figure-choice array; CBIS) and disordered eating attitudes (ChEAT) at 7-9 years old (T1) and two years later at 9-11 years old (T2). This represented a 71% retention rate from initial recruitment, at which N=194. Across time predictors of body dissatisfaction and disordered eating attitudes, adjusted for other across- and within-time relationships (cross-lagged correlations), were modelled using multiple regression analyses. Both T1 adiposity (B=-.38,p=.003) and T2 adiposity (B=-.30,p=.015) prospectively predicted T2 body dissatisfaction, but T1 body dissatisfaction did not (final model: r2=.47; F(3, 133)=39.4,p<.001). T1 adiposity, body dissatisfaction and anxiety were unpredictive of T2 disordered eating attitudes despite significant within-time correlations. T1 disordered eating attitudes (B=.31,p<.001) and perfectionism at T1 (B=.20,p=.02) and T2 (B=.18,p=.03) predicted T2 disordered eating attitudes (r2=.25; F(3, 133)=14.1,p<.001). These data suggest novel prospective factors in the pathogenesis of disordered eating and body image for young girls. Both historic and concurrent adiposity influenced body dissatisfaction, suggesting a potent ‘downstream’ effect of weight upon body image schemata. Body dissatisfaction correlated with, but failed to predict, disordered eating attitudes. This contrasts with adult and adolescent findings, but is in keeping with several previous studies involving preadolescents and using figure-choice scales.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Evans EH, Boothroyd LG

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: Appearance Matters 6: Centre for Appearance Research

Year of Conference: 2014

Publisher: University of the West of England