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Keywords:

  • sexual abuse;
  • eating disorders;
  • impulsivity

Abstract

Objective

To examine the relationship between childhood maltreatment and eating disorders in a sample of children.

Method

Twenty 10–15-year-old female children who were receiving treatment following reported childhood sexual abuse and 20 age-matched controls were compared on a series of measures assessing eating disorder behaviors, body image concerns, substance use, mood, impulsive behavior, and self-concept.

Results

Sexually abused children reported higher levels of eating disorder behaviors, impulsive behaviors, and drug abuse than controls. Furthermore, behavioral impulsivity provided the strongest mediational effect between a history of childhood sexual abuse and purging and restrictive dieting behavior. Drug use proved to be a significant secondary mediator of the childhood sexual abuse eating disorder behavior association.

Discussion

These data support the hypothesis that childhood sexual abuse is related to disordered eating in children, and extend similar findings that have been previously reported with adults. Behavioral impulsivity and drug use appear to be significant mechanisms that influence eating disorder behavior following childhood sexual abuse. © 2001 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 29: 270–279, 2001.