Characteristics of Dieting and Nondieting Adolescents in a Psychiatric Inpatient Setting

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Abstract

The clinical and psychosocial characteristics of 239 dieting and nondieting adolescents (61% female; mean age=15.3) recruited from an inpatient psychiatric setting were examined. Dieting adolescents were compared to nondieting adolescents on exercise frequency, weight control behaviors, risky behaviors, psychiatric comorbidity and distress, eating disorder symptomatology, smoking, coping, and family factors. While dieters did not statistically differ from nondieters on scores of body mass index, dieting youth reported greater levels of self-reported distress, poorer coping, greater eating disorder symptomatology, and were more likely to engage in extreme weight control behaviors. In addition, dieting was associated with higher rates of major depression (58% vs 34%) and eating disorders (14% vs 1%). Among adolescent smokers, dieters endorsed smoking as a weight control behavior. Engaging in risky behaviors or familial factors did not differentiate dieters from nondieters. Given the number of negative correlates associated with dieting in adolescents, identifying dieting and weight control behaviors in clinical settings may prove to be an effective strategy in the development of prevention and intervention efforts for youth.

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