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Keywords:

  • dieting behavior;
  • eating attitudes;
  • multicohort longitudinal design;
  • children;
  • adolescents

Abstract

Objective

To examine the extent to which the prevalence of self-reported dieting and the wish to be thinner changed in 7–15-year-old girls over a 3-year period, and to explore potential differences between cohorts recruited in 1995 and 1999. In addition, changes in eating attitudes (Children’s Eating Attitudes Test [ChEAT]) were compared between 1995 and 1999.

Method

A three-wave longitudinal study including girls (n = 1,076–1,279) in five age groups (7, 9, 11, 13, 15, the Main Cohort) and an age-matched cross-sectional sample consisting of 1,759 girls (the Societal Cohort).

Results

A marked increase of the wish to be thinner was evident in the 10–14-year-old age range and significant increases in dieting attempts occurred mainly among 9–13-year-old girls. ChEAT scores were significantly higher among 11-year-olds in 1999 than in 1995. However, more 7-year-olds scored above the ChEAT cutoff (≥15) in 1995 compared with 1999.

Discussion

There was an increasing trend in the wish to be thinner and in dieting attempts among 9–14-year-olds. Attitudes and behaviors associated with disturbed eating had increased between 1995 and 1999 only among the 11-year- olds. © 2002 John Wiley& Sons, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 31: 32–42, 2002.