Early Adversity, Adulthood Anxiety and Eating Behaviors Authors: Alexandra Croft & Annalisa Adams Faculty Sponsor: Cynthia Erickson Ph.D.
Early Adversity & Anxiety Those who experience high levels of early childhood adversity are likely to show symptoms of anxiety in adulthood ( Cougle , Timpano , Sachs Ericsson, Keough & Riccardi , 2010) 13% of college students report levels of anxiety that are at or above the clinical cut off ( Pedrelli et al., 2015)
Early Childhood Adversity Study conducted in the US 4,140 participants 23.4% of participants reported experiencing physical abuse as a child 10.9% reported having experienced sexual abuse as a child. Of those who had experienced physical abuse, 40.0% were diagnosed with generalized anxiety, and of those who experienced sexual abuse 25.7% had been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (Kong & Bernstein, 2009).
Eating Behavior Study done in the US found that the prevalence rates for eating disorders are as follows: Anorexia nervosa: .9% in women, .3% in men Bulimia nervosa: 1.5% women, .5% men (Hudson, Hiripi , Pope, & Kessler, 2007).
Eating Behavior Known predictors of eating disorders: Insecure attachment styles in childhood, Early childhood trauma and abuse, High levels of body dissatisfaction in childhood
Is the experience of adversity throughout childhood predictive of the later development of anxiety and disordered eating behavior in adulthood?
Method: Materials Online survey through Qualtrics Surveys included: GAD 7 (psychological construct + example questions) Over the past two weeks how often have you felt that you cannot stop or control your worrying? EAT 26 Have you ever made yourself sick (vomited) to control your weight or shape? Adverse childhood experiences questionnaire Prior to your 18th birthday: Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often...push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured? Demographic questionnaire
Method: Procedure Participants were sent a link to the survey on Qualtrics They were then given an informed consent After they consenting, they took the following survey: Demographics EAT 26 GAD 7 Adverse Childhood Experiences Scale
Method: Participants Participants were recruited via: MSU Denver Introductory Psychology student population. These students received credit for their participation Snowball emails sent to friends and family
Self identified demographics Gender Male Female Transgender Other Sexual Orientation Heterosexual Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Other
Main result A linear regression was calculated to predict eating behavior based on adverse childhood experiences and adulthood anxiety. Results of the linear regression indicated that there was a collective significant effect between adverse childhood experience, adult anxiety and eating behavior F (2, 92) = 8.50, p < .001, R 2 = .16.
Other results The individual predictors were examined further and indicated that adult anxiety was a significant predictor of disordered eating behavior in this model. Adverse childhood experiences was not a significant predictor of disordered eating behavior in this model.
Discussion The findings of this study supported previous findings that the experience of anxiety in adulthood is a significant predictor of disordered eating behavior. The finding that adverse childhood experiences are not a significant predictor of disordered eating behavior is somewhat enlightening. Adverse childhood experiences currently are found to predict a number of psychological disorders in adulthood. With the findings of this study researchers could potentially eliminate disordered eating as a product of adverse childhood experiences. Online format may have caused limitations in this study in that participants may questions. Future studies may benefit from conducting the study in person.
Conclusions Findings from this study did not support the initial hypothesis that adverse childhood experiences and adult anxiety predict later on disordered eating behavior. This study did however support current knowledge that anxiety and disordered eating are significantly correlated. Treatment professionals may benefit from these findings in that they will allow them to more efficiently implement a treatment plan for patients with current disordered eating behaviors.
References Cougle , J.R., Timpano , K.R., Sachs Ericsson, N., Keough, E. & Riccardi , C.J. (2010). Examining the unique relationships between anxiety disorders and childhood physical and sexual abuse in the national comorbidity survey replication. Psychiatry Research, 177 , 150 155. Hudson, J.I., Hiripi , E.H., Pope, H.G. & Kessler, R.C. (2007). The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the national comorbidity survey replication. Society of Biological Psychiatry, 61, 348 358. Kong, S. & Bernstein, K. (2009). Childhood trauma as a predictor of eating psychopathology and its mediating variable in patients with eating disorders. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 18, 1897 1907.