Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Donald A. Williamson


Risk factors which have been shown to influence the development of body dissatisfaction and eating disturbance in adolescents include depressed mood, low self-esteem, a history of teasing about physical appearance, social and parental pressure to be thin, pubertal timing, and actual body weight or body mass index. In the present study, an etiological model was proposed with these risk factors as predictors of the presence of eating disorder symptoms; this association was hypothesized to be mediated by dissatisfaction with body shape and weight. Structural equation modeling was used to test this theoretical model within a total sample of 345 adolescent females. Of the risk factors examined, all were significantly correlated with body dissatisfaction and eating disturbance except pubertal timing (i.e., early or late onset of menarche). Depressed mood, low self-esteem, social and parental pressure for thinness, and body mass index were found to be significant risk factors for the presence of body dissatisfaction. Depressed mood and low self-esteem were also found to be significant direct risk factors for eating disturbance; this relationship was not mediated by body dissatisfaction. In an initial sample of 172 subjects, the risk factors examined accounted for 40 percent of the variance in body dissatisfaction, which itself explained 64 percent of the variance in eating disturbance. The model was cross-validated with data from an additional 173 subjects; within this sample the risk factors accounted for 41 percent of the variance in body dissatisfaction; 67 percent of the variance in eating disturbance was explained. The results of this investigation were consistent with other recent studies of risk factors for eating disturbance. The major new finding of this study was that the direct association of depressed mood and low self-esteem with eating disorder symptoms was stronger than has previously been reported.