Associations Between Multiple Types of Stress and Disordered Eating Among Girls and Boys in Middle School
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- Blodgett Salafia, E.H. & Lemer, J.L. J Child Fam Stud (2012) 21: 148. doi:10.1007/s10826-011-9458-z
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Stress is common during adolescence, yet no known studies have linked particular types of stress (performance, relationship, education, financial, and family) with disordered eating among adolescents in middle school. The present study investigated sex differences in types of stress and how multiple types of stress were associated with girls’ and boys’ body dissatisfaction, dieting behaviors, and bulimic symptoms. We found that girls reported higher levels of stress than boys and that different associations between stress and disordered eating existed for girls and boys. We also examined a path model for both sexes such that stress first led to body dissatisfaction, which then led to dieting and finally bulimic symptoms. Our model was supported for girls with performance, relationship, and family stress driving the process. For boys, all five types of stress were associated with body dissatisfaction, which was linked with dieting; however, the relation between dieting and bulimic symptoms was not significant. Future research and therapy should focus on the unique experiences of each sex in order to gain a better understanding of the processes involved in coping with stress and promoting healthy development.