Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Dr. Mark Whisman

Second Advisor

Dr. Richard Olson

Third Advisor

Dr. Stephanie Mollborn

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Tina Pittman Wagers


Disordered eating and exercise behaviors are far from uncommon on university campuses, and those attending university are at an increased risk of developing eating disorders. Many risk factors have been established in clinical populations, but have only been studied in few subclinical populations. The present research examined (a) gender differences on disordered eating and exercise, as well as on risk factors for these outcomes; and (b) the main and moderated associations between risk factors and disordered eating and exercise during the transition to university. Risk factors examined in the study include expressed emotion, perceived family criticism, family functioning, peer comparison, and perceived stress. Compared to men, women reported higher mean scores in disordered eating, peer comparison, and perceived stress. Results also suggest that disordered exercise behaviors, peer comparisons, and perceived stress were significantly and positively associated with disordered eating behaviors. There were no significant interactions between risk factors and either disordered eating or exercise. The present findings lend support to the perspective that peer comparisons are important correlates of disordered eating and exercise behaviors, and also suggest that family risk factors are not significantly associated with disordered eating and exercise.