Adolescent Conduct Problems and Bulimic Tendencies: Study of an Emotional Distress Hypothesis

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Prior research has documented an association between adolescent conduct problems and bulimic tendencies. However, there is limited theoretical modeling to explain this association, and prior studies have generally failed to assess for potential mediating variables of impulsivity, anxiety, and depression. The current study assessed these mediating variables in further exploring for unique associations between adolescent conduct problems and bulimic tendencies. A non-referred adolescent sample was assessed for bulimic tendencies, conduct problems, impulsivity, anxiety, and depression using a multi-informant assessment battery including parent, teacher, and self-report measures. There was a significant bivariate association between conduct problems and bulimic tendencies, r = 0.29, p < 0.01. However, this association was fully mediated by anxiety and depression symptoms. This suggests that emotional distress could be a primary factor linking adolescent conduct problems and bulimic tendencies. Implications include the potential for more regular screening of youth with conduct problems for associated eating disturbances.

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