The aims of the current study were to determine if impulsivity serves as a risk factor for eating disorder behavior and to examine whether different risk outcomes are obtained depending on the assessment strategy used to measure impulsivity.
Three independent studies are reported, each of which examined the relationship of impulsivity and eating disorder behavior in a prospective longitudinal design with adolescent subjects recruited from both public and private schools. Individuals displaying eating disorder behavior at initial assessments were not included in the analyses, to ensure that we were testing the role of impulsivity in the onset of eating disorder behavior.
Trait impulsivity, measured with traditional personality scales, failed to predict the onset of eating disorder behavior in all three studies. However, when behavioral constructs associated with impulsivity, such as delinquency or substance abuse, were examined, they significantly predicted the onset of eating disorder behavior in most of the analyses conducted.
These results provide moderate support for the idea that impulsivity serves as a risk factor for the onset of eating disorder behavior. However, this is only true when more objective behavioral measures were utilized. © 2004 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 36: 172–182, 2004.