Eating attitudes and behaviors in adolescent women: Discrimination of normals, dieters, and suspected bulimics using the eating attitudes test and eating disorder inventory

Rickey L. Williams, Catherine A. Schaefer, Catherine M. Shisslak, Virginia H. Gronwaldt, George D. Comerci

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The prevalence of eating disorders has increased in teenage and young adult women. Since early treatment of eating disorders is thought to lead to improved outcomes, the development of an effective self‐report screening device for eating disorders in adolescents could help reduce morbidity from these illnesses. In order to examine the feasibility of developing such an instrument, eating attitudes and behaviors were studied in a sample of 72 female adolescents, using the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT), the Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI), and blinded structured clinical interviews focused on eating disorders. Scores on the EAT and EDI were similar to scores of older normal female comparison groups in other studies. Based upon interview information, 54 subjects were classified as normal, 9 as dieters, 8 as suspected bulimics, and 1 as bulimic. Subjects, on average, accurately reported their actual weight and height. The results of the interviews indicated that 25% of the 72 subjects were currently dieting, 60% regularly skipped meals, 35% said they were overweight or very overweight, 22% were binge eaters, 8% vomited after eating, and 4% used drugs to lose weight. Linear discriminant analysis was used to compare the results of the questionnaires with that of the interviews in order to identify a composite set of questionnaire items to be used as a screening device for individuals with clinical eating disorders and for those at high risk of developing such disorders. A preliminary equation was obtained that correctly classified 86% of subjects into categories of normal, dieter, or suspected bulimic that were determined from the interviews. These preliminary data suggest that adolescents' scores on the EAT and the EDI are similar to young adult women's scores, and also that further refinement of a discriminant equation might lead to the development of an effective screening device for eating disorders in adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)879-894
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 1986


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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