Year of Publication

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Gregory T. Smith

Abstract

To investigate whether there are different patterns of development for binge eating and purging behavior among pre-adolescent and early adolescent girls, I conducted trajectory analyses of those behaviors in 938 girls across eight waves of data from the spring of 5th grade (the last year of elementary school) through the spring of 9th grade (the first year of high school). Analyses revealed four separate developmental trajectories for binge eating behavior (labeled none, increasing, decreasing, and high steady) and three separate developmental trajectories for purging behavior (labeled none, dabble, and increasing). Fifth grade scores on risk factors that were both personality-based (negative affect and negative urgency) and learning-based (expectancies for reinforcement from eating and from thinness) differentiated among the trajectory groups, in some cases before the groups differed in the target behaviors. These findings are the first, to my knowledge, to examine developmental trajectories for eating disorder onset in youth as young as elementary school. Clinical implications are discussed.