Distinguishing Between Risk Factors for Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, and Purging Disorder

Karina L Allen, Susan M Byrne, Ross D Crosby
Journal of Youth and Adolescence 2015, 44 (8): 1580-91
Binge eating disorder and purging disorder have gained recognition as distinct eating disorder diagnoses, but risk factors for these conditions have not yet been established. This study aimed to evaluate a prospective, mediational model of risk for the full range of binge eating and purging eating disorders, with attention to possible diagnostic differences. Specific aims were to determine, first, whether eating, weight and shape concerns at age 14 would mediate the relationship between parent-perceived childhood overweight at age 10 and a binge eating or purging eating disorder between age 15 and 20, and, second, whether this mediational model would differ across bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and purging disorder. Participants (N = 1,160; 51 % female) were drawn from the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study, which has followed children from pre-birth to age 20. Eating disorders were assessed via self-report questionnaires when participants were aged 14, 17 and 20. There were 146 participants (82 % female) with a binge eating or purging eating disorder with onset between age 15 and 20 [bulimia nervosa = 81 (86 % female), binge eating disorder = 43 (74 % female), purging disorder = 22 (77 % female)]. Simple mediation analysis with bootstrapping was used to test the hypothesized model of risk, with early adolescent eating, weight and shape concerns positioned as a mediator between parent-perceived childhood overweight and later onset of a binge eating or purging eating disorder. Subsequently, a conditional process model (a moderated mediation model) was specified to determine if model pathways differed significantly by eating disorder diagnosis. In the simple mediation model, there was a significant indirect effect of parent-perceived childhood overweight on risk for a binge eating or purging eating disorder in late adolescence, mediated by eating, weight and shape concerns in early adolescence. In the conditional process model, this significant indirect effect was not moderated by eating disorder group. The results support a prospective model of risk that applies to bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and purging disorder. Common prevention approaches may be possible for bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and purging disorder.

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