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Social comparison, negative body image, and disordered eating behavior: The moderating role of coping style

Pinkasavage, Emilie, Arigo, Danielle, Schumacher, Leah M.
Eating behaviors 2015 v.16 pp. 72-77
at-risk population, body image, body mass index, demographic statistics, eating disorders, eating habits, quality of life, women
Comparing one's body to those of individuals perceived as more attractive is common among college women, and has been associated with increases in body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. Not all college women are vulnerable to the negative influence of these upward body comparisons; however, little is known about characteristics that may distinguish more vulnerable women. Coping styles, which represent individuals' responses to negative events, are a key area of opportunity for better understanding the relationship between body comparison and weight-related experiences in this population. College women (n =628) completed an electronic assessment of demographics, upward body comparison, body dissatisfaction, disordered eating behavior, and coping styles. Controlling for reported BMI, positive reframing coping style moderated the relationship between upward body-focused comparison and body dissatisfaction (p =0.02), such that women who engaged in more (vs. less) positive reframing showed a weakened relationship between upward body-focused comparison and body dissatisfaction. Controlling for BMI and body dissatisfaction, both self-blaming (p =0.02) and self-distracting (p =0.009) styles also moderated the relationship between upward body-focused comparison and disordered eating behaviors, such that women who more (vs. less) strongly endorsed self-blaming and self-distracting styles appeared more susceptible to the negative influence of upward body comparison. These findings underscore the importance of upward body comparison for body dissatisfaction and disordered eating among college women, and highlight coping style as a key factor in these relationships. Increased attention to upward body comparison and coping style may improve quality of life and contribute to the prevention of disordered eating in this vulnerable population.