Attachment, wellness, and disordered eating in college women

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Human Services


James Bellini


Well-being, Female college students, Structural equation modeling, College women, Eating disorders, Attachment

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Counseling Psychology | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Normative eating behaviors in college women are not normal; rather, the majority of women on college campuses engage in some form of disturbed eating behavior to relieve stress or control their weight (Hoyt & Ross, 2003; Tykla & Subich, 2003). Not all young women, however, succumb to the pressure to meet the "thin ideal" that is so prevalent in westernized societies today. What is it, then, that makes these young women more resilient? No study to date had investigated the role of wellness as a mediator between attachment and subthreshold disordered eating (ED) in college women. The purpose of this dissertation study, therefore, was to examine the effects of attachment-avoidance, - anxiety, and wellness on subthreshold ED in female college students (N = 653; mean age 20 years). Structural equation modeling was employed to evaluate the data. Results indicated that an anxious attachment status was indirectly related to disordered eating. Only the Coping Self factor of wellness (that is, stress management, self worth, leisure, and realistic beliefs) substantially predicted disordered eating. Contrary to the hypothesis, the Creative Self (that is, problem-solving, emotions, positive humor, and work satisfaction) was positively associated with ED. Attachment avoidance was partially mediated by the Creative Self. No effects were noted for the Essential Self (that is, gender identity, cultural identity, spirituality, and self care). These findings suggested that college women with an anxious attachment status, an inability to manage stress, low sense of self worth, and unrealistic beliefs concerning the self and others were likely to engage in disordered eating practices. Suggestions are offered to practitioners in the field based upon the findings.


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