Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Self-Focus Mediates the Relationship between Body Dissatisfaction, Depression and Disordered Eating Behaviors

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Self-Focus Mediates the Relationship between Body Dissatisfaction, Depression and Disordered Eating Behaviors

Article excerpt

Whereas the role of body dissatisfaction as a risk factor in the development of eating disorder behaviors has been well established, a recent longitudinal investigation illustrated that an additional role is played by depressive symptoms. Stice, Marti, and Durant (2011) followed a group of almost 500 middle school-aged females prospectively for eight years. They found that adolescent girls with higher levels of body dissatisfaction were four times more likely to develop eating disorders than those with lower levels of body dissatisfaction, and that within the high body dissatisfaction group, those with higher depressive symptoms were almost three times more likely to develop eating disorders than those with high body dissatisfaction and low levels of depression. Similarly, in a survey of 472 college women, Juarascio, Perone, and Timko (2011) found that depression, as well as anxiety and dieting, moderated the relationship between body dissatisfaction and disordered eating.

We believe that a variable that may further account for the pathway from body dissatisfaction to depression and disordered eating behaviors is self-focused attention. Self-focused attention has been defined as "awareness of self-referent, internally generated information" (Kiropoulos & Klimidis, 2006, p.297). Dispositional self-focus has been conceptualized as the tendency to be more aware of internal experiences, including bodily experiences, and more aware of oneself (and one's physical appearance) within a social context (Kiropoulos & Klimidis, 2006). Dispositional self-focus, especially rumination tendency, has been found to be associated with depressed mood (Watkins & Teasdale, 2004), and has been proposed as a risk factor for depression (Ingram, 1990). The degree of self-focus has also been found to differentiate between dieters and non-dieters (Heatherton, 1993). Indeed, restrained eating among those dissatisfied with their body size may result from a heightened degree of self-focus and concern about how one appears to others (Heatherton, 1993). It also has been proposed that other disordered eating behaviors, such as binge eating, may be used during times of stress in order to escape from an aversive state of heightened self-focus (Heatherton & Baumeister, 1991).

In our study, we examined body dissatisfaction, depressive symptoms, dispositional self-focus, and disordered eating behaviors in college females using an online survey. We predicted that self-focused attention would mediate the relationship between body dissatisfaction and disordered eating (Hypothesis 1). We also predicted that self-focused attention would mediate the relationship between body dissatisfaction and depression (Hypothesis 2). Finally, we predicted that self-focused attention and depressive symptoms would mediate the relationship between body dissatisfaction and disordered eating (Hypothesis 3).

METHOD

Participants

Participants were 281 undergraduate female students, who received course credit for their participation. As in the research by Stice et al. (2011) and Juarascio et al. (2011), females were surveyed due to higher rates of eating disordered symptoms in females and different sources of body dissatisfaction in females (Silberstein, Striegel-Moore, Timko, & Rodin, 1988). The mean age of participants was 21.81 (SD = 6.93), and 77% of our sample consisted of freshmen and sophomores. Sixty percent of our participants listed their race as Caucasian, 24% as African-American, and 6% each as Hispanic or Asian. The remainder declined to identify their race.

Measures

Body satisfaction/dissatisfaction. Body satisfaction/dissatisfaction was measured using the Body Shape Questionnaire (BSQ), the Body Esteem Scale (B-ES), and the Body Appreciation Scale (BAS). The BSQ is a 34-item self-report measure assessing degree of dissatisfaction and negative feelings about one's body shape (Cooper, Taylor, Cooper, & Fairburn, 1987). …

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