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J Youth Adolesc. 2012 Jan;41(1):1-13. doi: 10.1007/s10964-010-9612-8. Epub 2010 Nov 27.

Weight perception, substance use, and disordered eating behaviors: comparing normal weight and overweight high-school students.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA. dawn.eichen@temple.edu

Abstract

Disordered eating behaviors and substance use are two risk factors for the development of serious psychopathology and health concerns in adulthood. Despite the negative outcomes associated with these risky behaviors, few studies have examined potential associations between these risk factors as they occur during adolescence. The importance of accurate or inaccurate weight perception among adolescents has received increased interest given documented associations with nutritional beliefs and weight management strategies. This study examined the associations among the perceptions of weight and substance use with disordered eating behaviors among a diverse sample of normal weight and overweight adolescent males and females. Data came from the 2007 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). The sample consisted of 11,103 adolescents (53.4% female; 44% Caucasian, 21% African American; 13% Hispanic; age responses ranged from 12 and under to 18 and over), with 31.5% meeting criteria for being either at-risk for obesity or already obese (i.e., overweight). As hypothesized, overestimation of weight among normal weight adolescents and accurate perceptions of weight among overweight adolescents were associated with higher rates of disordered eating behaviors. In normal weight adolescents, use of all three substances (tobacco, binge drinking, and cocaine) was associated with each disordered eating behavior. In contrast, findings revealed differences for overweight adolescents between the type of substance use and disordered eating behavior. Post hoc analyses revealed that gender moderated some of these relationships among overweight individuals. Implications for the development and implementation of secondary prevention programs aimed at reducing disordered eating behaviors, substance use, and obesity risk among normal and overweight adolescents are considered.

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