Eating Disturbances, Interpersonal Relationships, and Depressive Symptoms Among Emerging Adults

Sarah Jane Norwood, Jennine S. Rawana, Ahuva Brown


Given the high prevalence of depression among Emerging Adults (EAs), it is important to investigate the risk factors associated with depression within this age group. Previous research highlights the association between disordered eating, insecure relationships, and depressive symptoms among adolescents. However, these relations have yet to be examined as youth develop into EAs. Thus, the current study investigated eating- and weight-related disturbances (EWRDs; e.g., emotional eating, external eating, and restrained eating) and interpersonal relationships in relation to depressive symptoms among EAs. It was hypothesized that increased EWRDs and less supportive relationships with mothers, fathers, and peers would be associated with higher depressive symptoms. The results revealed a significant relationship between eating in response to emotional arousal and depressive symptoms, as well as between maternal relationships and depressive symptoms among EAs. Implications for clinical practice are discussed.

Full Text:



Allen, J. P., Boykin McElhaney, K., Land, D. J., Kuperminc, G. P., Moore, C. W., O’Beirne-Kelly, H., & Liebman Kilmer, S. (2003). A secure base in adolescence: Markers of attachment security in the mother-adolescent relationship. Child Development, 74, 292-307. doi: 10.1111/14678624.t01-1-00536

Allen, J. P., Porter, M., McFarland, C., McElhaney, K. B., College, D., & Marsh, P. (2007). The relation of attachment security to adolescents’ paternal and peer relationships, depression, and externalizing behavior. Child Development, 78, 1222–1239. doi: 10.1111/j.14678624.2007.01062.x

Appleton, K. M., & McGowan, L. (2006). The relationship between restrained eating and poor psychological health is moderated by pleasure normally associated with eating. Eating Behaviors, 7, 342-347. doi:10.1016/j.eatbeh.2005.11.008

Arnett, J. J. (1997). Young people’s conceptions of the transition to adulthood. Youth & Society, 29, 3-23. doi:10.1177/0044118X97029001001

Arnett, J. J. (1998). Learning to stand alone: The contemporary American transition to adulthood in cultural and historical context. Human Development, 41, 295-315. doi:10.1159/000022591

Arnett, J. J. (1999). Adolescent storm and stress, reconsidered. American Psychologist, 54, 317-326. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.54.5.317

Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American Psychologist, 55, 469-480. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.55.5.469

Branje, S. J. T., Hale, W.W., Frijns, T., & Meeus, W. H. J. (2010). Longitudinal associations between perceived parent-child relationship quality and depressive symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 38, 751-763. doi: 10.1007/s10802-010

Constantine, M. G., Okazaki, S., & Utsey, S. O. (2004). Self-concealment, social self-efficacy, acculturative stress, and depression in African, Asian, and Latin American international college students. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 74 (3), 230-241. doi: 10.1037/0002-9432.74.3.230

Furman, W., & Buhrmester, D. (1992). Age and sex differences in perceptions of networks of personal relationships. Child Development, 63, 103-115. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.1992.tb03599.x

Galambos, N.L., Barker, E.T., & Krahn, H.J. (2006). Depression, self-esteem, and anger in emerging adulthood: Seven-year trajectories. Developmental Psychology, 42, 350-365. doi: 10.1037/00121649.42.2.350

Greene, A. L., Wheatley, S. M., & Aldava, J. F. (1992). Stages on life’s way: Adolescents’ implicit theories of the life course. Journal of Adolescent Research, 7, 364-381. doi:10.1177/074355489273006

Hann, D., Winter, K., & Jacobsen, P. (1999). Measurement of depressive symptoms in cancer patients: Evaluation of the center for epidemiological studies depression scale (CES-D). Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 46, 437-443. doi: 10.1016/S00223999(99)00004-5

Heaven, P. C. L., Mulligan, K., Merrilees, R., Woods, T. & Fairooz, Y. (2001). Neuroticism and conscientiousness as predictors of emotional, external, and restrained eating behaviors. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 30, 161–166. doi 10.1002/eat.1068

Helgeson, V.S., Reynolds, K.A., Shestak, A., & Wei, S. (2006). Brief report: Friendships of adolescents with and without diabetes. Journal of Paediatric Psychology, 31, 194-199. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsj009

Kenny, M. (1987). The extent and function of parental attachment among first-year college students. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 16, 17-29. doi: 10.1007/BF02141544

Kenny, M. & Sirin, S. (2006). Parental attachment, self-worth, and depressive symptoms among emerging adults. Journal of Counseling & Development, 84, 61-71.

Kessler, R. C., Avenevoli, S., & Merikangas, K. R. (2001). Mood disorders in children and adolescents: An epidemiologic perspective. Biological Psychiatry, 49, 1002-1014. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3223(01)01129-5

Kessler, R. C., & Walters, E. E. (1998). Epidemiology of DSM-III-R major depression and minor depression among adolescents and young adults in the National Comorbidity Survey. Depression and Anxiety, 7, 3-14.

Klerman, G. L. (1988). The current age of youthful melancholia: Evidence for increase in depression among adolescents and young adults. British Journal of Psychiatry, 152, 4- 414. doi:10.1192/bjp.152.1.4

Klerman, G. L., & Weissman, M. M. (1989). Increasing rates of depression. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 261, 2229-2235. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420150079041.

Kuwabara, S.A., Van Voorhees, B.W., Gollan, J. K., & Alexander, C. (2007). A qualitative exploration of depression in emerging adulthood: disorder, development, and social context. General Hospital Psychiatry, 29, 317-324. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2007.04.001

Lempers, J.D., & Clark-Lempers, D.S. (1992). Young, middle, and late adolescents’ comparisons of the functional importance of five significant relationships. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 21, 53-96. doi: 10.1007/BF01536983

Lopes, P. N., Salovey, P., & Straus, R. (2003). Emotional intelligence, personality, and the perceived quality of social relationships. Personality and Individual Differences, 35, 641-658. doi: 10.1016/S0191-8869(02)00242-8

Ohring, R., Graber, J. A., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2002). Girls’ recurrent and concurrent body dissatisfaction: Correlates and consequences over 8 years. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 31, 404–415. doi: 10.1002/eat.10049

Ouwens, M. A., van Strien, T., & van Leeuwe, J. F. J. (2009). Possible pathways between depression, emotional and external eating: A structural equational model. Journal of Appetite, 53, 245-248. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2009.06.001

Paxton, S. J., Neumark-Sztainer, D., Hannan, P. J., & Eisenberg, M. E. (2006). Body dissatisfaction prospectively predicts depressive mood and low self-esteem in adolescent girls and boys. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 35, 539-549. doi: 10.1007/s11199-008-9474-7

Prinstein, M. J., Borelli, J.L., Cheah, C. S. L., Simon, V. A., & Aikins, J. W. (2005). Adolescent girls’ interpersonal vulnerability to depressive symptoms: A longitudinal examination of reassurance-seeking and peer relationships. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 114, 676-688. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.114.4.676

Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D scale: A selfreport depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385-401. doi: 10.1177/014662167700100306

Rawana, J. S., Morgan, A. S., Nguyen, H., & Craig, S. G. (2010). The relation between eating- and weight-related disturbances and depression in adolescence: A review. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 13, 213-230. doi: 10.1007/s10567-010-0072-1

Rawana, J.S., & Nguyen, H. (2010). Integrative collaborative strategies in school-based prevention programs: Improving mental health and academic outcomes simultaneously. Executive Summary and Report to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS). Toronto: MCYS.

Rierdan, J., Koff, E., & Stubbs, M. L. (1989). A longitudinal analysis of body image as a predictor of the onset and persistence of adolescent girls’ depression. Journal of Early Adolescence, 9, 454–466. doi: 10.1177/0272431689094006 Riggs, S. A., & Han, G. (2009). Predictors of anxiety and depression in emerging adulthood. Journal of Adult Development, 16, 39-52. doi: 10.1007/s10804-009-9051-5

Scheer, S. D., Unger, D. G., & Brown, M. B. (1996). Adolescents becoming adults: Attributes for adulthood. Adolescence, 31, 127-131.

Schembre, S. M., & Geller, K. S. (2011). Psychometric properties and construct validity of the weight-related eating questionnaire in a diverse population. Obesity, 19, 2336-2344.

Spoor, S. T. P., Bekker, M. H. J., van Strien, T., & van Heck, G. L. (2007). Relations between negative affect, coping, and emotional eating. Appetite, 48, 368-376. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2006.10.005

Stahl, D., Sum, C. F., Lum, S. S., Liow, P.S., Chan, Y. H., Verma, S., Chua, H. C., & Chong, S. A. (2008). Screening for depressive symptoms: Validation of the CES-D scale in a multi-ethnic group of patients with diabetes in Singapore. Diabetes Care, 4, 2-5. doi: 10.2337/dc07-2019

Stice, E., & Bearman, S. K. (2001). Body-image and eating disturbances prospectively predict increases in depressive symptoms in adolescent girls: A growth curve analysis. Developmental Psychology, 37, 597-607. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.37.5.597

Stice, E., Hayward, C., Cameron, R. P., Killen, J. D., & Taylor, C. B. (2000). Body-image and eating disturbances predict onset of depression among female adolescents: A longitudinal study. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 109, 438-444. doi: 10.1037/0021843X.109.3.438

Sung, J., Lee, K., Song, Y-M., Lee, M.I., Lee, D-H. (2010). Heritability of eating behavior assessed using the DEBQ (Dutch Eating Behavior Questionnaire) and weight-related traits: The healthy twin study. Obesity, 18, 1000-1005. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.389

Tanner, J.L., Reinherz, H. Z., Beardslee, W. R., Fitzmaurice, G. M., Leis, J. A., & Berger, S. R. (2007). Change in prevalence of psychiatric disorders from ages 21 to 30 in a community sample. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 195, 298-306. doi: 10.1097/01.nmd.0000261952.13887.6e

van Strien, T., Frijters, J., Bergers, G., & Defares, P. B. (1986). The Dutch Eating Behavior Questionnaire (DEBQ) for assessment of restrained, emotional, and external eating behavior. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 5, 295-315. doi: 10.1002/1098108X(198602)5:2<295::AIDEAT2260050209>3.0.CO;2-T

Wang, J., Williams, J., Lavarato, D., Schmitz, N., Dewa, C., & Patten, S. B. (2010). The incidence of major depression in Canada: The national population health survey. Journal of Affective Disorders, 123, 158-163. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2009.07.016


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2017 The New School Psychology Bulletin

© The New School Psychology Bulletin |