Original Paper

Child Psychiatry and Human Development

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 193-203

First online:

Are there Gender-Specific Pathways from Early Adolescence Psychological Distress Symptoms Toward the Development of Substance Use and Abnormal Eating Behavior?

  • Luis Beato-FernándezAffiliated withEating Disorders Unit, Department of Psychiatry, Ciudad Real Hospital, Carretera de Valdepeñas Email author 
  • , Teresa Rodríguez-CanoAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Ciudad Real Hospital, Carretera de Valdepeñas
  • , Esther Pelayo-DelgadoAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Ciudad Real Hospital, Carretera de Valdepeñas
  • , Myralys CalafAffiliated withCarlos Albizu University

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The aim of the present longitudinal community study was to test whether psychological distress at 13 years of age predicted reported substance use problems in boys and abnormal eating behavior in girls 2 years later. The sample consisted of 500 male and 576 female students. The use of substances was evaluated using a semi-structured interview, psychological distress with the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) and eating psychopathology with the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-40), and the Bulimic Investigatory Test Edinburgh (BITE). Controlling the effect of initial substance use problems, psychological distress predicted later reported substance use problems in males. Girls with an initial score above the cut-off point on the GHQ were two times more likely to be at risk of having an eating disorder 2 years later. Therefore, psychological distress might take different developmental pathways in males and females, leading toward eating problems in the latter versus substance use in the former.


Adolescents Spanish Substance use Eating behavior Gender General psychiatric morbidity