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Early adversity, personal resources, body dissatisfaction, and disordered eating

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Early adverse experiences have been associated with disordered eating, but the mechanisms underlying that association are not well understood. The purpose of this study is to test a structural equation model in which early adversity is associated with disordered eating via intrapersonal resources, interpersonal resources, and body dissatisfaction.


Female university students (n = 748) completed a series of questionnaires online, including measures of early adverse experiences, intrapersonal resources (self-esteem and personal growth initiative), interpersonal resources (gratitude and social support), body dissatisfaction, and disordered eating and exercising to lose weight.


Structural equation modeling indicated that early adverse experiences were negatively associated with interpersonal and intrapersonal resources. Intrapersonal resources were negatively associated with body dissatisfaction, whereas interpersonal resources were positively associated with body dissatisfaction (although negative bivariate correlations in this latter case suggest possible suppression effects). Finally, body dissatisfaction was associated with a range of disordered eating behaviors and exercise.


Early adverse experiences are important to consider in models of disordered eating. The results of this study highlight potential points of early prevention efforts, such as improving personal resources for those who experience early adversity, to help reduce the risk of body dissatisfaction and disordered eating in young women.

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