Document Type

Dissertation

Publication Date

Spring 5-23-2003

Abstract

Disordered eating attitudes and behaviors are prevalent among college age women (Drewnowski, Yee, Kurth, & Krahn, 1994), but the impact of specific domains of eating pathology on young women’s lives has not been adequately studied. This study examined the relationships among domains of eating disordered symptomatology and measures of general psychopathology and quality of life in a nonclinical sample of female college students. One-hundred and six women representing the range of eating disorder pathology, from asymptomatic to subthreshold eating disorders, were selected based on a survey sent to freshman women. Results indicated that disordered eating attitudes (i.e., body dissatisfaction, overconcern with eating, weight, and shape, and preoccupation with eating, weight, and shape), dietary restriction, and bingeing were all associated with increased general psychopathology and decreased quality of life. Specifically, disordered eating attitudes, dietary restriction, and bingeing predicted increased negative affect and anxiety, and decreased general satisfaction. In addition, disordered eating attitudes and bingeing predicted decreased interpersonal competence. Bingeing was the only predictor of increased substance use. An examination of the unique prediction of each domain of disordered eating revealed that bingeing predicted increased substance use above and beyond dietary restriction and disordered eating attitudes, and disordered eating attitudes predicted increased negative affect and anxiety and decreased general satisfaction over and above dietary restriction and bingeing. These relationships between eating disordered symptomatology and general psychopathology/quality of life were generally linear with the exception of the relationship between dietary restriction and general satisfaction. When controlling for disordered eating attitudes and bingeing, this relationship was nonlinear such that at below average levels of dietary restriction, increased restriction was associated with increased general satisfaction, but at above average levels of dietary restriction, increased restriction was associated with decreased general satisfaction. Findings stress the importance of intervening with women experiencing subthreshold disordered eating attitudes and behaviors to minimize the negative impact of such eating disorder pathology on the lives of young women.

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