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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Stress, coping, and eating behaviors among female athletes in emerging adulthood Muscat, Ann Carolyn


This investigation explores the interpersonal stress and coping process of female athletes' during emerging adulthood and across the eating disorder continuum. Respondents in this cross-sectional study were 223 female competitive athletes (Mage = 20.9 years, SD = 1.61) attending the University of British Columbia. It was hypothesized that while controlling for depression, female athletes who remembered critical comments by peers, family, or significant others about her body, shape, or weight, would report greater disordered eating, compared with female athletes who did not remember critical comments. It was also hypothesized there would be a statistically significant linear relationship between the predictor variables daily hassles, coping strategies (behavioral disengagement, mental disengagement, active coping, instrumental social support, emotional social support, planning, restraint coping, suppression of competing activities, religion, positive reinterpretation and growth, acceptance, denial, and relationship-focused coping) and the criterion variable, the severity of eating disordered behavior, controlling for the effects of depression. An analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was used to examine mean differences on disordered eating (covariate depression) between those individuals who remembered critical comments by peers, family or significant others (coaches) about their body shape or weight and those female athletes who did not remember critical comments. Participants with critical comments had a higher level of disordered eating (i.e., EDEQ). A hierarchical multiple regression (HMR) found once the variance attributed to depression was controlled for, severity of critical comment was significantly positively related to disordered eating. A second HMR was conducted to test whether the 15 predictor variables predicted overall severity of disordered eating, after controlling for depression. Once the variance attributed to depression was controlled for greater daily hassles, mental disengagement, positive growth and reinterpretation coping strategies and less use of active coping strategies predicted greater disordered eating. The results support the relevance of interpersonal stress, a few unique coping skills and depression in the experience of disordered eating of female athletes attending university. Implications for theory, research, and treatment are discussed.

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