Behavioral Eating Patterns: Understanding the Relational Dynamics of Neuroticism and Impulsivity
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Disordered eating affects approximately 24 million people in the United States with 95% of the cases falling between the ages of 12 and 25 (The Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders, 2003; ANAD, 2013). Approximately 90% of female, college students endorse attempting to control their weight through dieting, with 25% reporting the use of binging and purging as a weight management technique (Shisslak, Crago & Estes, 1995). Research has linked high neuroticism and impulsivity to cyclic patterns of weight change. However, the exact mechanism though which neuroticism and impulsivity affect disordered eating remains unknown. To understand the effects of personality and behavioral traits on eating patterns in this vulnerable developmental age cohort, the present study aimed to investigate the role of neuroticism and behavioral impulsivity in predicting engagement in disordered eating. Adolescents and emerging adults were presented with surveys and behavioral tasks measuring eating attitudes, and personality, and impulsivity. Results showed that neurotic groups (i.e., low, moderate and high) differed in disordered eating engagement and in delay discounting, but not disinhibition or inattention. In addition both neuroticism and delay discounting were significantly associated with patterns of disordered eating. However, delay discounting appeared to mediate the relationship between neuroticism and disordered eating. These results should guide prospective research to explore the relations between neurotic and impulsive behavior, particularly delayed discounting on disordered eating that will assist in education-, prevention-, and treatment efforts targeting at the development of maladaptive eating behaviors.
Hubbard, Meagan Ashley (2014). Behavioral Eating Patterns: Understanding the Relational Dynamics of Neuroticism and Impulsivity. Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Available electronically from