Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Robert A. DiTomasso, Ph.D., ABPP

First Advisor

Stacey Cahn, Ph.D., Chairperson

Second Advisor

Virginia Salzer, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Martha Levine, M.D.


The current study examined social information processing variables, social problem solving skills, and interpersonal assertiveness in adolescent females diagnosed with an eating disorder. A total of 114 adolescent females between the ages of 14-17 participated in the study. Fifty girls currently in treatment for a diagnosed eating disorder were compared to 64 healthy nonclinical controls. When presented with vignettes depicting ambiguous social dilemmas, the eating disorder group demonstrated a more hostile attributional bias, experienced a significantly greater intensity of negative emotions, and relied upon more avoidant coping strategies when compared to the nonclinical control group. Specifically, the eating disorder group reported significantly more intrapunitive avoidant strategies that represent a self-destructive means of coping with distressing events. In addition, the eating disorder group had significantly less confidence in their ability to effectively handle social problems, and felt more overwhelmed emotionally in response to social problems. Finally, the eating disorder group reported significantly less interpersonal assertiveness, that likely impacts feelings of helplessness and loss of control in relationships. The results identified social problem-solving skill deficits that may contribute to or maintain core eating disorder pathology.