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Eating disorder attitude and abnormal eating behaviours in a sample of 11–13-year-old school children: The role of pubertal body transformation

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: A cross sectional study was performed to evaluate the presence, in a sample of subjects in the age of pubertal transition, of those psychological characteristics and abnormal eating behaviours, which are generally considered the predictors of eating disorders (EDs) in adolescence. The primary aim of our study was to evaluate the presence of EDs-related psychological traits and of abnormal eating behaviours, in a wide sample of natural 11–13-year-old population, and to determine if, in this period of transition, there are the same differences between males and females, which are related to the ED psychological characteristics that are often observed and assessed in samples of adolescents or young adults; our secondary aim was to evaluate, in the female sample, if and how the episode of menarche, and the related pubertal body transformation, play a role in the development of ED symptomatology. METHOD: We screened 2925 school children by means of an ad-hoc socio-demographic schedule, the EDI 2 and the EDI-Symptom Checklist questionnaires. We compared each EDI 2 scales score (Mann-Whitney U) and the abnormal eating behaviours (χ2 analyses) between pre- and post-menarche female subjects, for each age subgroup. RESULTS: Fourteen percent of the entire sample scored higher than the cut-off value at the EDI 2 drive for thinness scale and have to be considered at risk for an ED onset. The EDI 2 scores and the adoption of abnormal eating behaviour increase, in the female population, depending on whether they have had menarche. In the male sample the mean values at EDI 2 scales decrease with increasing age. DISCUSSION: The abnormal eating behaviours and the psychological ED attitude are widespread even among a “cross-pubertal” population. Our data confirm the differences between male and female subjects at the EDs attitude, suggesting a strong relation in the female children between the pubertal body transformation and the risk of ED onset.

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Cotrufo, P., Cella, S., Cremato, F. et al. Eating disorder attitude and abnormal eating behaviours in a sample of 11–13-year-old school children: The role of pubertal body transformation. Eat Weight Disord 12, 154–160 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03327592

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03327592

Key words

  • Anorexia
  • bulimia
  • eating disorders
  • puberty
  • menarche
  • body transformation
  • eating disorder attitude