Variables associated with disturbed eating habits and overvalued ideas about the personal implications of body shape and weight in a female adolescent population

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Abstract

Objectives

Few studies exist that examine risk factors for the overvalued ideas about the personal implications of body shape and weight that are viewed as the central cognitive substrate of eating disorders.

Method

In a female adolescent population (mean age = 14 years, SD = 0.7), we examine variables previously identified in the literature as risk factors for eating disorders, namely, self-esteem, comments from others about eating/weight/shape, perfectionism, childhood and parental weight/shape, and parental conflict.

Results

These variables were all correlated significantly with current (past 4 weeks) levels of overvalued ideas and disturbed eating patterns in the predicted directions. Self-esteem was found to mediate partially the relationship between the overvalued ideas and comments about weight and perfectionism. Self-esteem fully mediated the relationship between the overvalued ideas and parental conflict. A family index of body size had an independent influence on the overvalued ideas, that is, the bigger the size, the greater the overvalued ideas. Finally, the overvalued ideas fully accounted for the relationship between self-esteem and disturbed eating patterns.

Discussion

The cognitive model of bulimia nervosa is supported by the results of this study. Self-esteem represents an important gateway to the overvalued ideas that contribute substantially to disturbed eating patterns. © 2002 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 32:39–45, 2002.

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