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01-07-2014 | Uitgave 5/2014 Open Access

Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology 5/2014

Reciprocal Associations Between Depressive Symptoms and Disordered Eating Among Adolescent Girls and Boys: A Multiwave, Prospective Study

Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology > Uitgave 5/2014
Fátima Ferreiro, Lars Wichstrøm, Gloria Seoane, Carmen Senra


Symptoms of depression and eating disorders increase during adolescence, particularly among girls, and they tend to co-occur. Despite this evidence, there is meager research on whether depression increases the risk of future eating pathology, or vice versa, and we do not know whether these processes are different for adolescent girls and boys. Accordingly, this study explored the prospective reciprocal associations between depressive symptoms and disordered eating at different time points from preadolescence to mid-adolescence and tested the moderator effect of gender on these associations. A community-based sample of Spanish youth (N = 942, 49 % female) was assessed at ages of approximately 10-11 (T1), 12-13 (T2), 14-15 (T3), and 16-17 (T4) years. The bidirectional relationships between depressive symptoms and disordered eating were estimated in an autoregressive cross-lagged model with latent variables. A unidirectional, age-specific association between depressive symptoms at T1 and disordered eating at T2 was found. No other significant cross-lagged effect emerged, but the stability of the constructs was considerable. Gender did not moderate any of the links examined. Regardless of gender, the transition from childhood to adolescence appears to be a key period when depressive symptoms foster the development of disordered eating. These findings suggest that early prevention and treatment of depression targeting both girls and boys may result in lower levels of depressive symptoms and disordered eating in adolescence.

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