Trait-Defined Eating-Disorder Subtypes and History of Childhood Abuse

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Objective:In participants with eating disorders (EDs), prior physical or sexual abuse has been associated with increased likelihood of impulsivity and affective instability. However, previous studies among participants with eating disorders have not systematically explored relationships between empirically derived, personality-trait-based classes, on the one hand, and likelihood of exposure to either childhood sexual or physical abuse, on the other.Method:We assessed multiple psychopathological traits, eating symptoms, and history of abuse in 185 women with an ED and 93 with no ED.Results:A latent class analysis, conducted using psychopathological-trait measures, yielded latent classes of participants with eating disorders fitting the descriptors “dissocial/impulsive,” “inhibited/compulsive,” and “low psychopathology.” ED was generally associated with increased risk of childhood sexual abuse, but the dissocial/impulsive characteristic corresponded with a unique likelihood of physical abuse and especially high rates of sexual abuse.Discussion:Observed associations between different forms of childhood abuse and trait-defined ED variants help inform models on the development of eating disorders and of psychopathological traits that often accompany them.

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