Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Suzanne E. Mazzeo


Rates of pediatric obesity in America are reaching epidemic proportions. Studies using both community and treatment-seeking samples of obese adolescents indicate that a subset engage in binge eating behaviors. This study investigated the prevalence and severity of binge eating behaviors among 86 primarily African American 11 to 17 year old adolescents seeking outpatient treatment for obesity. This study also examined the associations of stressful experiences (specifically, weight-related teasing, trauma, and daily hassles) with binge eating, as well as potential mediators and moderators of these relationships. Twenty-eight percent of the sample reported at least one episode of binge eating in the past two weeks and there were no ethnic or gender differences in rates of binge eating, nor in any other measures of eating related pathology. None of the forms of stress were associated with binge eating. However, weight-related teasing and trauma were associated with overall eating pathology. Therefore, the global measure of eating pathology was used as the dependent variable in the subsequent analysis.Although it was hypothesized that depressive symptoms would mediate the relationship between stressful experiences and disordered eating, this was not the case. Instead, the upset feelings about being teased mediated the relationship between depressive symptoms and disordered eating. It was also hypothesized that self-esteem and ethnic identity would moderate the relationships between stress and disordered eating. Self-esteem was not a significant moderator, but ethnic identity was among the European American participants only. Interpretation of the moderating role of ethnic identity revealed that European American participants with stronger ethnic identity were more likely to report disordered eating when they had also experienced teasing, trauma, and daily hassles. This result is interpreted using sociocultural theories which posit that the European American culture places individuals at more risk for disordered eating because of the emphasis placed on a thin body image ideal. Therefore, when European American obese adolescents identify highly with their ethnicity, they may be at more risk for developing disordered eating when they have also experienced other risk factors such as stressful life experiences. Future research should attempt to replicate these findings using a longitudinal approach.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

Included in

Psychology Commons