Skip to main content

Negative affect and eating psychopathology: the moderator effect of gender



This study examined the moderator role of gender in the relationship between negative affect and eating psychopathology as well as gender differences in these variables.


A community sample of 285 students (61.8% females), aged 13–25, was recruited in middle and high schools and universities. They filled instruments that assess negative affect and eating disordered symptoms (restraint, eating concern, shape concern, weight concern, and global scale).


Females scored higher both in all subscales and the global scale of eating psychopathology. The restraint subscale was the only subscale showing non-significant differences between females and males. Controlling for BMI, moderation analyses revealed that gender moderated the relationship between negative affect and eating psychopathology, except for restraint behavior.


To deal with negative affect, females engage in more cognitive symptoms associated with disordered eating than males, but both endorse equally in eating restraint. These findings suggest that interventions focused on emotion regulation could help to reduce eating disordered symptoms among females and males.

Level of evidence

Level V, cross-sectional descriptive study.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4


  1. 1.

    Mellor D, McCabe M, Ricciardelli L et al (2009) Sociocultural influences on body dissatisfaction and body change behaviors among Malaysian adolescents. Body Image 6:121–128.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Bergstrom RL, Neighbors C, Lewis MA (2004) Do men find “bony” women attractive?: consequences of misperceiving opposite sex perceptions of attractive body image. Body Image 1:183–191.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Murray SB, Nagata JM, Griffiths S et al (2017) The enigma of male eating disorders: a critical review and synthesis. Clin Psychol Rev 57:1–11.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Strother E, Lemberg R, Stanford SC, Turberville D (2012) Eating disorders in men: underdiagnosed, undertreated, and misunderstood. Eat Disord 20:346–355.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Mond J, Hall A, Bentley C et al (2014) Eating-disordered behavior in adolescent boys: eating disorder examination questionnaire norms. Int J Eat Disord 47:335–341.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Dahlgren CL, Stedal K, Rø Ø (2017) Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q) and clinical impairment assessment (CIA): clinical norms and functional impairment in male and female adults with eating disorders. Nord J Psychiatry 71:256–261.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Shingleton R, Thompson-brenner H, Thompson DR et al (2015) Gender differences in clinical trials of binge eating disorder: an analysis of aggregated data. J Consult Clin Psychol 83:382–386.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Mantilla EF, Birgegård A (2016) Eating disorder examination questionnaire: norms and clinical reference data from adolescent boys and girls in Sweden. Psychiatry Res 239:156–162.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Valente S, Di Girolamo G, Forlani M et al (2017) Sex-specific issues in eating disorders: a clinical and psychopathological investigation. Eat Weight Disord 22:707–715.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Haynos AF, Wang SB, Fruzzetti AE (2018) Restrictive eating is associated with emotion regulation difficulties in a non-clinical sample. Eat Disord 26:5–12.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Ivanova IV, Tasca GA, Hammond N et al (2015) Negative affect mediates the relationship between interpersonal problems and binge-eating disorder symptoms and psychopathology in a clinical sample: a test of the interpersonal model. Eur Eat Disord Rev 23:133–138.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Combs JL, Smith GT, Simmons JR (2011) Distinctions between two expectancies in the prediction of maladaptive eating behavior. Pers Individ Differ 50:25–30.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Jackson T, Chen H (2011) Risk factors for disordered eating during early and middle adolescence: prospective evidence from mainland Chinese boys and girls. J Abnorm Psychol 120:454–464.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Jackson T, Chen H (2014) Risk factors for disordered eating during early and middle adolescence: a two year longitudinal study of mainland Chinese boys and girls. J Abnorm Child Psychol 42:791–802.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Leon GR, Fulkerson JA, Perry CL et al (1999) Three to four year prospective evaluation of personality and behavioral risk factors for later disordered eating in adolescent girls and boys. J Youth Adolesc 28:181–196.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Sim L, Zeman J (2006) The contribution of emotion regulation to body dissatisfaction and disordered eating in early adolescent girls. J Youth Adolesc 35:219–228.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Lavender JM, Wonderlich SA, Engel SG et al (2015) Dimensions of emotion dysregulation in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa: a conceptual review of the empirical literature. Clin Psychol Rev 40:111–122.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Ricciardelli LA, McCabe MP (2004) A biopsychosocial model of disordered eating and the pursuit of muscularity in adolescent boys. Psychol Bull 130:179–205.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Hayaki J, Free S (2016) Positive and negative eating expectancies in disordered eating among women and men. Eat Behav 22:22–26.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Rø Ø, Reas DL, Rosenvinge J (2012) The impact of age and BMI on Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q) scores in a community sample. Eat Behav 13:158–161.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Ricciardelli LA, McCabe MP, Lillis J, Thomas K (2006) A longitudinal investigation of the development of weight and muscle concerns among preadolescent boys. J Youth Adolesc 35:177–187.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Fairburn CG, Beglin SJ (1994) Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q 6.0). In: Fairburn CG (ed) Cognitive behavior therapy and eating disorders. Guilford Press, New York, pp 309–313

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    McNair DM, Lorr M, Droppleman LF (1971) Manual for the profile of mood states. Educational and Industrial Testing Services, San Diego

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Hayes AF (2013) Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: a regression-based approach. The Guilford Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Mendes AL, Ferreira C, Marta-Simões J (2017) Experiential avoidance versus decentering abilities: the role of different emotional processes on disordered eating. Eat Weight Disord 22:467–474.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Ferreira C, Palmeira L, Trindade IA, Catarino F (2015) When thought suppression backfires: its moderator effect on eating psychopathology. Eat Weight Disord 20:355–362.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Rawal A, Park RJ, Williams JMG (2010) Rumination, experiential avoidance, and dysfunctional thinking in eating disorders. Behav Res Ther 48:851–859.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Trindade IA, Ferreira C, Pinto-Gouveia J (2018) Roles of body image-related experiential avoidance and uncommitted living in the link between body image and women’s quality of life. Women Health 58:38–50.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors did not receive any form of funding.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Cristiana Marques.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

The present study has been approved by the Portuguese Data Protection Authority (authorization no. 566/2017). All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Marques, C., Santos, T., Martins, M.J. et al. Negative affect and eating psychopathology: the moderator effect of gender. Eat Weight Disord 24, 879–885 (2019).

Download citation


  • Gender
  • Negative affect
  • Eating psychopathology
  • Moderation