Parent-Adolescent Relationships and Girls' Unhealthy Eating: Testing Reciprocal Effects

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This longitudinal study tested the direction associations between parent-adolescent relationships and adolescent girls unhealthy eating. Girls (N = 184) were seen at Time 1 (M age = 14.30 years), and then again 2 years later (Time 2; M age = 16.04 years). At both assessment periods, they completed measures that assessed their eating attitudes and behaviors, relationships with their parents, height, weight, and age of menarche. Whereas unhealthy family relationships have been hypothesized as a precursor to unhealthy eating attitudes and behaviors, it is also possible that increases in these behaviors contribute to more negative relationships within the family. Structural equation modeling was employed to simultaneously investigate the longitudinal influence of parent-adolescent relationships on girls' unhealthy eating, and girls' unhealthy eating on parent-adolescent relationships. The model was tested with the following controls: body mass (kg/m2), pubertal timing and age. A longitudinal direct effect was found for unhealthy eating on parent-adolescent relationships; however, no direct effect was found for parent-adolescent relationships on unhealthy eating over time. For middle-and late-adolescent girls, it appears that unhealthy eating behaviors and attitudes are predictive of less positive parent-adolescent relationships over time.

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