Prospective predictors of the onset of anorexic and bulimic syndromes


  • This study comprises part of Audrey Tyrka's doctoral dissertation research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania. This work was supported by a National Research Service Award from the National Institute of Mental Health (5 F30 MH10819-03) to Audrey Tyrka, and grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD24770) and the W. T. Grant Foundation to Jeanne Brooks-Gunn.



This study investigated prospective predictors of lifetime history diagnoses of partial- and full-syndrome anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa (referred to as anorexic syndrome and bulimic syndrome.)


Participants were 157 females who were studied initially in the 7th–10th grades (ages 12–16) and followed-up 2 and 8 years later in middle adolescence (ages 14–18) and young adulthood (ages 20–24), respectively. A telephone interview to determine lifetime history of anorexic and bulimic syndromes was conducted in young adulthood.


In multivariate analyses controlling for initial eating symptoms, initial perfectionism and low body weight predicted young adult onset of anorexic syndrome, and initial negative emotion predicted young adult onset of bulimic syndrome.


Our findings suggest that adolescent girls who are initially thin and also adhere to perfectionistic standards may be at risk for developing anorexic syndrome. For bulimia, negative affect may contribute to the development of the binge–purge cycle. © 2002 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 32: 282–290, 2002.