Body image and personality predictors of eating disorder symptoms during the college years




Women entering college (N = 118) were longitudinally followed for 3 years with assessments of eating pathology (Restraint and Bulimia).


Measures taken at Time 1 included timing of onset of puberty, Figure Dissatisfaction, Ineffectiveness, Public Self-Consciousness, and mood states (Profile of Mood States). Measures were evaluated as predictors of changes in Restraint and Bulimia scores across the three-year period.


Both Restraint (r = .69) and Bulimia (r = .50) were quite stable across the 3 years. Mean weight gain of 5.4 pounds (p <.001) was paralleled by an increase in “ideal weight” of 4.7 pounds. Hierarchical regressions controlling for Time 1 levels of eating disorder symptoms revealed that changes in Bulimia (R2 = .38, p <.0001) were related to the psychological measures and to Figure Dissatisfaction. Changes in Restraint (R2 = .61, p <.0001) were significantly related to Figure Dissatisfaction.


Findings are discussed in the context of the value of longitudinal designs in identifying risk factors. Dissatisfaction with one's figure seems to be consistently related to worsening eating pathology. © 2001 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 30: 28–36, 2001.