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Child Abuse Negl. 1994 Aug;18(8):607-15.

Childhood abuse, body image disturbance, and eating disorders.

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  • 1Northern Illinois University, DeKalb.


Studies have suggested that women who experience child sexual abuse are at risk for developing symptoms related to anorexia nervosa and bulimia. The purpose of the present study was to examine the relationships among childhood sexual and physical abuse, body image disturbance, and eating disorder symptomatology. Of 670 female college students screened for childhood abuse, 29 sexually abused, 32 physically abused, and 29 nonabused women completed measures of eating disorder symptoms, psychological factors thought to be related to eating disorders, and body image distortion. Contrary to previous reports, there was no evidence that child sexual or physical abuse was associated with the development of body image disturbance. Furthermore, the results did not support the hypothesis that child sexual and physical abuse are related to eating disorder symptomatology. It is suggested that subjects who are victims of child sexual abuse and who are receiving psychotherapy manifest higher rates of a number of different types of psychopathology, including eating disorders.

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