Psychological and behavioral factors unpredictive of disordered eating: A prospective study of the general adolescent population in Norway

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Abstract

Objective

To investigate if cross-sectionally identified correlates of disordered eating among adolescents could also predict disordered eating prospectively over and beyond the initial level of disordered eating.

Method

Two-wave longitudinal questionnaire study of a representative and nationwide sample of 7,751 Norwegian adolescents aged 12–19 at initial testing (t1). A 12-item version of the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT) was included.

Results

Forty percent of the girls and 25% of the boys with disordered eating at t1 also scored above the cut-off point 2 years later (t2). Initial disordered eating, gender, depressed mood, body dissatisfaction, unstable self-perceptions, perceived obesity, excessive exercise, and having idols with perfect bodies all predicted change in disordered eating. However, when the initial symptom load was controlled, these variables — except gender — only contributed marginally to the prediction of disordered eating. These negative results are in line with other longitudinal studies of changes in disordered eating in unselected adolescent populations.

Discussion

It cannot be established that psychological factors play a major etiological role in the development of disordered eating. The results are discussed with reference to a potential discontinuity between eating problems and eating disorders. © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 28: 33–42, 2000.

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