Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 78 Issue 3 (September 2005), Pages 275-417

The evolutionary psychology of eating disorders: Female competition for mates or for status? (pages 397-417)

The relationship between eating disorders and female intrasexual competition (ISC) was studied. More specifically, it was predicted that Female ISC for mates would be the strongest predictor of bulimia, and that, in contrast, Female ISC for status would be the strongest predictor of anorexia nervosa. A group of 202 undergraduate women, attending the University of Arizona, Tucson, USA, participated in this study. These respondents completed surveys that contained the following measures: the Female competition for mates scale, the Female competition for status scale, the General Competitiveness Scale, the Eating Disorders Inventory (EDI), and an additional measure specific to Anorexia. The internal consistencies of the measures were computed using Cronbach's alpha, and the measures were found to have adequate measurement reliability. Correlations were computed and a structural equation model was constructed for all the subscales within the measures. The resulting model demonstrated that ISC for mates was ultimately the driving factor that contributed to Female competition for status, General competitiveness, Perfectionism, Body dissatisfaction, Drive for thinness, and both Bulimia and Anorexia. Contrary to initial expectations, the results supported a mostly spurious causal relationship between Female competition for status and anorexia, with the only indirect causal effect being through the influence of perfectionism, which was uniquely on anorexia and not on bulimia. The role of perceived personal and Ideal partner mate value was also explored. Although they were strongly positively related to each other, these were shown to have nearly equal and opposite effects on body dissatisfaction.

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