OBJECTIVE: This study examined the mediating role of body dissatisfaction between Body Mass Index (BMI) and subsequent disordered eating (e.g. dieting and restricting/purging) among early adolescent African American girls.
STUDY DESIGN: Participants included 701 African American girls in 6th and 7th grades in urban schools serving low-income communities, mean age 12.15 (SD = 0.72) years. Participants were assessed at baseline and approximately 6 months later. Objectively measured height and weight were used to calculate BMI z-score. Participants completed questionnaires on body size dissatisfaction and recent dieting and restricting/purging behaviors.
RESULTS: At baseline, 51.5% of participants were overweight/obese, and 60.4% expressed body dissatisfaction and a desire to be smaller. Path analytic analyses revealed change in body dissatisfaction significantly mediates the relation between initial BMI z-score and increases in dieting behaviors (B = 0.924, SE = 0.280, p = 0.001) but not restricting/purging behaviors (p = 0.05).
CONCLUSIONS: Body dissatisfaction explains some associations between excess body weight and subsequent disordered eating symptoms among early adolescent, African American girls. Body dissatisfaction, identified by screening, may be an indicator of further negative consequences, including disordered eating behaviors.