Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Mark Whisman

Abstract

Disordered eating and body image issues are prevalent problems among female college students. First semester freshman women completed a short-term longitudinal study that spanned from the beginning of the semester to approximately half-way through the semester. The study examined the impact that neuroticism and self-esteem, individually and in interaction with rushing a sorority, had on disordered eating patterns during the transition to college. Cross-sectional results suggest that disordered eating was positively associated with neuroticism and negatively associated with self-esteem. Additionally, women who chose to rush a sorority reported significantly higher scores for eating disorder symptoms at baseline assessment relative to women who did not rush; sorority involvement, however, did not moderate the associations between neuroticism and self-esteem and eating disorder symptoms. Neither neuroticism nor self-esteem were associated with changes in eating disorder symptoms, and sorority involvement was not a significant moderator of these longitudinal associations. Despite the finding that there were no significant mean changes in disordered eating symptoms from baseline to follow-up, about 1 out of 4 women in the sample population demonstrated changes in symptoms during this short longitudinal period that were greater than what would be expected by chance. Future studies should examine other risk factors that are associated with increases in eating disorder symptoms for this vulnerable population in addition to evaluating possible resilience factors that are associated with decreases in eating disorder symptoms.

Keywords: disordered eating, neuroticism, self-esteem, sorority status

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