A Four-Year Prospective Study of Bullying, Anxiety, and Disordered Eating Behavior Across Early Adolescence
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We investigated the developmental pathways by which bullying perpetration and victimization, anxiety, and disordered eating behavior were related. Participants were drawn from the Canadian McMaster Teen Study. From Grade 5-8 (age 10-14), students (n = 657) were assessed on bullying involvement and symptoms of anxiety, and in Grade 7 and 8, students additionally completed a measure of clinically significant disordered eating behavior. Bullying victimization initiated a cascading effect on bullying perpetration, which subsequently led to disordered eating behavior. Anxiety had direct effects on disordered eating behavior at multiple time points and initiated a cascading effect on bullying victimization, and subsequently, perpetration. There was no evidence of moderation by sex. Bullying perpetration and anxiety may serve as early signals of eating pathology. Bullying prevention programs may attenuate the risk of disordered eating in both sexes, and the high continuity of disordered eating behavior suggests that early intervention is critical.
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