Empirical studies have identified emotional abuse in childhood (CEA) as a risk factor with long-term implications for psychological problems. Indeed, recent studies indicate it is more prevalent than behavioral forms of abuse, (i.e. childhood sexual and physical abuse) and the childhood trauma most clearly associated with subsequent eating pathology in adulthood. However, relatively little is understood about the mechanisms linking these distal experiences. This study explores three psychological mechanisms - self-criticism (SC), depression and anxiety symptoms - as plausible mediators that may account for the relationship between CEA and binge eating (BE) among adult women. Detailed telephone interviews conducted with a community-based sample of 498 adult women (mean age 44) assess BE, CEA and SC along with the most frequently researched psychological variables, anxiety and depression. Regression analyses reveal that BE is partially explained by CEA along with the three mediators. Bootstrapping analysis, which compares multiple mediators within a single model using thousands of repeated random sampling observations from the data set, reveals a striking finding: SC is the only psychological variable that makes a significant contribution to explaining BE severity. The unique role of punitive self-evaluations vis-à-vis binge eating warrants additional research and, in the interim, that clinicians consider broadening treatment interventions accordingly.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding for this study was provided by The Hadassah Foundation, New York, NY and Geula Charitable Trust, New York, NY. Neither had a role in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of the data, writing the manuscript, or the decision to submit the paper for publication.
- Binge eating
- Childhood emotional abuse