Date of Award

1994

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Donald A. Williamson

Abstract

Eating disorders have been researched extensively among adult, and, more recently, among adolescent populations. Body image disturbance is included as a diagnostic criterion for anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, and has been postulated as a central characteristic of the eating disorders. Researchers have identified eating disorders among prepubertal children; therefore, there is a need for the development of reliable and valid measures of eating disorders and body image in children. In this investigation, a total of 257 children in grades 3 through 7 completed the Children's Eating Attitudes Test, Children's Depression Inventory, Piers-Harris Children's Self Concept Scale physical appearance and attributes items, and the Sociocultural Influence on Thinness questionnaire. The Body Image Assessment (BIA) procedure for children and pre-adolescents was also administered. Results showed that 40.5% of this sample wanted to be thinner, 13.5% admitted to caloric restriction, and 1.3% wanted to vomit after eating. Males and females had significantly different scores on the questionnaires administered, but there was not a significant effect for age, indicating that the scores of the younger subjects were not significantly different from the scores of the older subjects. The study found that separate norms were needed for the male and female child and pre-adolescent BIA procedures. Satisfactory reliability coefficients were found for the BIA procedure. The LISREL VII program was used to test a structural model of the development of eating disorder symptoms in 3-7 graders. Support for the causal model that was tested indicates that body dysphoria may be an important mediating factor between social pressure for thinness, negative affect, and negative evaluation of self in the development of eating disorder symptoms in young females. Subjects in this study were of higher socioeconomic status, and future research is needed with more representative samples of children.

Pages

127

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