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Eat Behav. 2016 Apr;21:109-15. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2016.01.006. Epub 2016 Jan 21.

Respiratory sinus arrhythmia as a predictor of eating disorder symptoms in college students: Moderation by responses to stress and parent psychological control.

Author information

1
Department of Psychological Science, University of Vermont, John Dewey Hall, 2 Colchester Avenue, Burlington, VT 05405, United States. Electronic address: jabaied@uvm.edu.
2
Department of Psychological Science, University of Vermont, John Dewey Hall, 2 Colchester Avenue, Burlington, VT 05405, United States.
3
Medica Research Institute, Mail Route CW105, P.O. Box 9310, Minneapolis, MN 55305, United States.

Abstract

This longitudinal study examined the prospective contribution of respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), a key physiological indicator of self-regulation, to eating disorder symptoms in college students, and whether this link was moderated by maladaptive responses to stress and parent psychological control. At Wave 1, college students' RSA was measured at rest. At Waves 1 and 2 (six-month follow-up), students reported on their eating disorder symptoms, coping and involuntary responses to stress, and perceptions of their parents' use of psychological control. Significant three-way interactions indicated that the link between RSA and subsequent eating disorder symptoms was contingent on responses to stress and parent psychological control. In the context of maladaptive responses to stress and high psychological control, RSA predicted increased eating disorder symptoms over time. In the absence of parent psychological control, high RSA was beneficial in most cases, even when individuals reported maladaptive responses to stress. This study presents novel evidence that high RSA contributes to risk for or resilience to eating disorder symptoms over time. RSA can be protective against eating disorder symptoms, but in some contexts, the self-regulation resources that high RSA provides may be inappropriately applied to eating cognitions and behaviors. This research highlights the importance of examining physiological functioning conjointly with other risk factors as precursors to eating disorder symptoms over time.

KEYWORDS:

Coping; Eating disorders; Emerging adulthood; Psychological control; RSA

PMID:
26826976
DOI:
10.1016/j.eatbeh.2016.01.006
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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