Skip to main content

Senior Psychology Student Devin Foster Presents Research on Temperament and Eating Disorders at the Western Psychological Association’s Annual Conference

Devin Foster

Senior, Devin Foster recently presented research conducted by herself, Bella Colson, Dr. Mary Pritchard, and Caley Featherstone, on their topic “How Gender Relates to Temperamental Differences in Those at Risk for an Eating Disorder,” at the Western Psychological Association’s Annual Conference. Provided below are the details of the research presented.

Purpose of the Study:

The purpose of this study was to identify college students at risk for developing an eating disorder and see whether these individuals exhibit the temperamental differences similar to those diagnosed with an eating disorder. We also wanted to examine whether these might differ by gender. We found that harm avoidance predicted bulimia and food preoccupation in both men and women. In addition, in women, self-transcendence and self-directedness factored into the equation. Oral control was predicted by self-transcendence in men, whereas harm avoidance predicted oral control in women. Nothing emerged as a significant predictor of the dieting subscale of the EAT-26 in men, but in women harm avoidance and self-transcendence predicted dieting. Our sample shows that even among those with subclinical eating disorders, there are still differences in scores on some of the temperament subscales.

Western Psychological Association Abstract:

Research suggests that body dissatisfaction (Bucchianeri, Arikian, Hannan, Eisenberg, & Neumark-Sztainer, 2013) and unhealthy weight control behaviors increase as young men and women move from adolescence into young adulthood (Haynos et al., 2018). Researchers continue to investigate why men and women may experience eating disorders and whether there are any gender differences in factors that predict disordered eating attitudes and behaviors. A recent study indicates that personality traits and temperament factor heavily into eating disorder risk (Rotella, Fioravanti, & Ricca, 2016). For example, those suffering with anorexia nervosa tend to want to avoid harm, whereas those suffering with bulimia nervosa seek out novel experiences (Atiye, Miettunen, & Raevuori‐Helkamaa, 2015). The purpose of this study was to identify college students at risk for developing an eating disorder, and see whether these individuals exhibit the temperamental differences similar to those diagnosed with an eating disorder. We surveyed male and female college students to assess their temperament using the TCI (Cloninger, 1993) and eating disorder risk using the EAT-26 (Garner, Olmsted, Bohr, & Garfinkel, 1982). We performed stepwise linear regressions to assess the relative contribution of temperament and personality as correlates of dieting, bulimia and food preoccupation, and oral control, separately for men and women. In men, harm avoidance accounted for 7% of the variance in bulimia and food preoccupation. Self-transcendence accounted for 6% of the variance in oral control. Nothing emerged as a significant predictor of the dieting subscale of the EAT-26. In women, harm avoidance accounted for 5% of the variance in dieting scores, with self-transcendence accounting for an additional 3% of the variance in dieting scores. Similar to men, harm avoidance was the first variable entered into the equation, accounting for 8% of the variance bulimia and food preoccupation. In addition, in women, self-transcendence emerged as a predictor that accounted for an additional 4% of the variance, with self-directedness accounting for an additional 2% of the variance in bulimia and food preoccupation scores. Finally, unlike men, rather than self-transcendence relating to oral control, harm avoidance emerged as the only significant predictor of oral control in women, accounting for a mere 3% of the variance.

Learn More

To learn more about Devin Foster’s presentation, a link to her poster, and virtual presentation has been provided.