Differential Impact of Upward and Downward Comparisons on Diverse Women's Disordered Eating Behaviors and Body Image


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Abstract

Objective:Etiological models of disordered eating are limited in their consideration of racial/ethnic differences in risk factors. Appearance comparisons are consistent predictors of disordered eating outcomes, but research predominantly examines these associations among White women and overlooks the potential differential impact of upward (comparing to someone perceived as better off) versus downward comparisons (comparing to someone perceived as worse off). This study investigated race/ethnicity as a moderator of the associations between upward and downward appearance comparisons and disordered eating outcomes and body satisfaction of young adult women.Method:Measures of upward and downward appearance comparisons, body satisfaction, and disordered eating were administered to 1,014 young adult women. A multiple group (by race/ethnicity) path analysis was estimated using maximum likelihood estimation for each disordered eating and body satisfaction outcome, controlling for age and BMI.Results:Upward comparisons were associated with higher levels of disordered eating behaviors and lower body satisfaction for women of all racial/ethnic groups. Downward appearance comparisons emerged as detrimental for Hispanic/Latina women, but were protective for Asian and White women.Discussion:Findings challenge the belief that appearance comparisons impact all women similarly and that downward comparisons are universally protective, a position often promulgated by clinical treatment approaches. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2016; 49:519–523).

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