Fear of negative evaluation and the development of eating psychopathology: A longitudinal study among nonclinical women




We replicated the cross-sectional relationship between restrictive eating attitudes and a fear of being negatively evaluated by others and tested whether negative evaluation fears longitudinally predict changes in eating attitudes over a 7-month period.


During the first week of an academic year, and again during Week 33, 143 female students completed the Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale (FNE), the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSE), the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), and the three eating scales of the Eating Disorders Inventory (EDI).


The exclusive link between heightened negative evaluation fears and restrictive eating attitudes was replicated cross-sectionally. However, the longitudinal model predicting the development of restriction was nonsignificant. In contrast, alongside depression, negative evaluation fears predicted an increase in bulimic attitudes, whereas self-esteem predicted an increase in body dissatisfaction.


The findings support a model whereby individuals with heightened fears of negative evaluation may use restrictive pathology to raise their status among peers. If this mechanism of dealing with negative evaluation fears is not sufficient in the long term, individuals may develop bulimic symptoms to deal with their negative evaluation fears. © 2005 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.