Annotated Bibliography: The Relationship Between Childhood Sexual Abuse and Eating DisordersGentile, K., Raghavan, C., Rajah, V., and Gates, K.
(2007).It Doesn’t Happen Here: Eating Disorders in an Ethnically Diverse Sample of Economically Disadvantaged, Urban College Students. Eating Disorders, 15, 405-425.The researchers sought to observe the effects of childhood sexual abuse on the development of eating disorders in a group of 884 ethnically diverse, low-income, urban college students. The students were surveyed to assess eating disorders and instances of sexual abuse before age 13 and after, physical abuse and witness to family violence. The study included both male and female students, attempting to go beyond the prevalent literature concentrated on middle class white women. The majority of those sampled were between 18-19 years old, with a majority of Latinos (over 40%), followed by African Americans, and whites.
The results showed a higher occurrence in all eating disorders in women compared to men; though eating disorders were more prevalent in men who had been sexually abused. Also a higher occurrence of eating disorders in Latino women as compared to African American, white, or other minorities included in the study.Harned, M.S. and Fitzgerald, L.
F. (2002). Understanding a Link Between Sexual Harassment and Eating Disorder Symptoms: A Mediational Analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70.5, 1170-1181.The researchers study concerns the connection between sexual harassment and eating disorders. Anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress can occur as an outcome of sexual harassment and difficulties in coping with these may lead the individual to tension reducing behaviors or self-destructive behavior.
The study groups consisted of 472 active duty military women, with 419 providing the eventual data for the study, a group of 254 active-duty military men with 239 providing data for the study, and 1853 women involved in sexual harassment suits. The target samples for each were questioned concerning sex-related experiences in the workplace, eating disorder symptoms, psychological distress, job satisfaction, and health status. The results showed a marked connection between eating disorders and sexual harassment among the two female sample groups, however, the researchers also noted that the total effect of sexual harassment on eating disorders is very small. Psychological distress was identified as one of the mitigating factors. No significant connection was drawn between eating disorders and sexual harassment in the male sample group.
Moyer, D., DiPietro, L., Berkowitz, R. and Stunkard, A. (1997). Childhood Sexual Abuse and Precursors of Binge Eating in an Adolescent Female Population.
International Journal of Eating Disorders, 21.1, 23-30.The researchers gathered data from a collection of adolescent females recruited through 5 childhood sexual assault clinics in the Philadelphia/Allentown area. The control group of similarly aged females were from local schools. The study sought to observe connections between childhood sexual assault and eating disorders in teenage girls.
Data was obtained through 4 questionnaires pertaining to self-esteem, binge eating, locus of control, and depression. The connections they found between eating disorders and childhood sexual assault, while initially notable became less so when viewed through other factors. They assertion that while the correlation between depression and childhood sexual abuse and between depression and eating disorders, childhood sexual abuse does not always lead to low body image.Murray, C.
and Waller, G. (28 January 2002). Reported Sexual Abuse and Bulimic Psychopathology Among Nonclinical Women: The Mediating Role of Shame. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 32, 186-191.The study concentrated on the role that shame related to childhood sexual abuse can play in the subsequent development of eating disorders, specifically bulimia. 214 women with a mean age of 21.6 years old were given a booklet of three standardized questions meant to measure sexual abuse, internalized shame, and bulimic behaviors. The results showed a connection between a reported history of sexual abuse and internalized shame but does not fully account for a connection between bulimic attitudes and sexual abuse.
However, they found that shame does fully account for the connection between interfamily abuse and bulimia.Romans, S.E., Gendall, K.A., Martin, J.
L., and Muller, P.E. Child Sexual Abuse and Later Disordered Eating: A New Zealand Epidemiological Study.
(2000 April 18). International Journal of Eating Disorders, 29, 380-392.The researchers objective is to ascertain if there is a connection between eating disorders and childhood sexual abuse by interviewing and conducting a series of interview-style tests with a random sampling of women who’d experienced sexual abuse before age 16 and a control group of women who’d never experienced childhood sexual abuse. The study group is limited to New Zealanders.
As part of the study, the researchers questioned the women on family bonding, evaluated for any psychological problems, and questioned on eating disorder related behaviors. The results showed a higher occurrence of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa in women who had experienced one for or another of sexual assault as children. The study also found a higher “frequency of parental separation in childhood” and parental violence and disorder for the group who reported both sexual assault and eating disorders. They also reported higher levels of parental control (both maternal and paternal) than women who had not experienced sexual abuse and developed an eating disorder. It was noted that women diagnosed with anorexia nervosa with a history of childhood sexual abuse experienced lower level of maternal care. The results cover not only the connection between sexual abuse and eating disorders but some of the farther underlying familial conditions that can contribute to both.Truer, T., Koperdak, M.
, Rozsa, S., and Furedi, J. (2005). The Impact of Physical and Sexual Abuse on Body Image in Eating Disorders.
Eur. Eat. Disorders Rev, 13. 106-111.The article outlines a study by the authors into the connections between physical abuse and its effects on body image in women.
The definition used for physical abuse was physical harm willingly inflicted on a person aged 18 or younger. The information collected, using an interview method of 63 women with a median age of 24 years old, was evaluated on the whole and in different eating disorder subcategories. The study showed that there is a larger occurrence of a distortion in body image in the women who had been physically abused.
Women with the binge eating/purging type of anorexia had the worst rates of sexual abuse and body image.Van Gerko, K., Hughes, M.L., Hamill, M., and Glenn Waller. (2005). Reported childhood sexual abuse and eating-disordered cognitions and behaviors.
Child Abuse & Neglect 29, 375-382.The researchers conducted a study to observe connections between eating disorders and sexual abuse in women. Previous studies had noted a higher occurrence of purging behavior and others in women who’d experienced sexual abuse in their childhood. Using an interview method to assert the behaviors and abuse history of each women, the researchers found a higher level of objective binging, vomiting, laxative abuse, and diuretic abuse. They also had more shape concerns than women who had not been sexually abused but not of other “eating cognitions” (380).
Wonderlich, S., Wilsnack, R., and Wilsnack, S. and Harris, R.
(1996 August) Childhood Sexual Abuse and Bulimic Behavior in a Nationally Representative Sample. American Journal of Public Health, 86.8, 1082-1086.
The study by these researchers concentrates on the connection between sexual abuse and bulimia nervosa. Using a survey method, composed of questions meant to provide a detailed assessment of the presence of the eating disorder and any history of sexual abuse. Instead of asking the women if they had been sexually abused, they were asked to describe their sexual life before the age of 18. They were then questioned on body image and any pathological behavior indicative of eating disorders. Results showed that women who had been sexually abused were shown to be two or more times more likely to develop binging behavior by itself or in combination with other related behaviors such as purging.Wonderlich, S.
A., Crosby, R.D., Mitchell, J.E.
, Thompson, K.M., Redlin, J., Demuth, G., Smyth, J.
, and Haseltine, B. (2001 January 2). Eating Disturbance and Sexual Trauma in Childhood and Adulthood. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 30, 401-412.This study, using results obtained using a ten year period, focused on four groups of women consisting of women who been sexually abused as a child, women who had experienced rape as an adult, women who’d experienced both, and a control group of women who’d experienced neither. Through a series of interviews and psychological assessments, each woman’s behaviors and experiences were evaluated within the context of the effects that their experiences had on their body image and possible eating disorder behavior.
The comparisons showed a strong support for a correlation between sexual abuse and eating disorders. Rape victims showed little evidence of a connection, however, those who’d experienced both rape and sexual abuse showed a “highly elevated” occurrence of dietary restraint and weight issues.Wonderlich, S.A.
, Rosenfeldt, S., Crosby, R.D., Mitchell, J.E.
, Engel, S., Smyth, J., Miltenberger, R. (February 2007). The Effects of Childhood Trauma on Daily Mood Lability and Cormorbid Psychopathology in Bulimia Nervosa. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 20.
1, 77-87.This study addressed the relationship in bulimic women between childhood abuse and psychiatric problems and daily mood and behavior. The test group was comprised of 123 women with bulimia nervosa between the ages of 18 and 55.
The women were asked to complete self-reports and interviews to evaluate the extent of their bulimia nervosa and any presence of childhood abuse. In concern to borderline personality disorder, the researchers found no significant occurrence of borderline personality symptoms in bulimic patients. Emotional abuse was found to be the mostly highly associated with eating disorders. A history of sexual abuse showed a higher association with a lifetime mood disorder while sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and physical abuse/neglect carried a greater chance of anxiety. Also notable, was that sexual abuse caused increased chances of both purging and self destructive behavior.
Summary:Each of the articles noted deal with, in one way or another, the connection between childhood sexual abuse and the presence of eating disorders in adults. Many of the researchers concentrated their studies on only females, though some included male test groups to equally measure the effects across the sexes. While all broadly deal with the association between eating disorder and childhood abuse, many concentrate on purging behaviors associated with bulimia nervosa.
Truer, Koperdak, Rozsa, and Furedi concentrated their study on the role childhood sexual abuse plays in body image, while other researchers narrowed the scope through studies specifically formulated to study along ethnic lines as well as mood behaviors. All of the studies used one form of interview and questionnaire method or another to obtain their data. Though the variable are in some cases different, the results all fall along the same lines. The researchers for each study were able to draw distinct correlations between eating disorders and a history of childhood abuse whether it be sexual, physical, emotional, or physical neglect.