Social Information-Processing and Coping in Adolescent Females Diagnosed with an Eating Disorder: Toward a Greater Understanding of Control

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The objective of this study was to examine differences in social information-processing and coping strategies between adolescent females in treatment for an eating disorder and asymptomatic peers. Adolescent females in treatment for an eating disorder (n = 50) were compared to asymptomatic control participants (n = 59) on a measure of social information-processing. Participants were presented with 4 hypothetical, ambiguous social dilemmas in which the intent of a peer provocateur was unclear. Questions followed each dilemma assessing intent attributions, the participant's emotional reaction, the intensity of the emotion, and coping strategies. The participants in treatment for an eating disorder were significantly more likely to perceive hostile intent from a peer provocateur, reported a greater intensity of negative emotions, and identified a significantly greater number of avoidant coping strategies. Specifically, the eating disorder group identified significantly more intrapunitive avoidant coping strategies that reflect maladaptive and self-destructive means of coping with distressing events. Results indicate social cognitive processing biases and maladaptive coping strategies may be instrumental in perceived loss of control and influence the development/maintenance of eating disorders.

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Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention





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This article was published in Eating Disorders, Volume 20, Issue 1, January 2012, pages 42-59.

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