Although adolescent dating has been associated with mental health problems, little is known about the association between dating and eating disorders. This study addressed the hypothesis that previous sexual experience and the quality of adolescents’ romantic relationships play a role in the association between dating and symptoms of eating disorders and depression. Participants included 75 girls, aged 12-19 (25 with an eating disorder, 25 with a depressive disorder, and 25 healthy controls). Study variables were assessed via questionnaires. Results indicated that involvement in a current, serious romantic relationship was associated with bulimic symptoms, particularly among girls who were sexually inexperienced. In addition, greater positive qualities of current relationships and greater negative qualities of previous relationships were associated with greater eating disorder symptoms. Future longitudinal studies should examine whether quality of romantic relationships and sexual experience represent risk factors for eating disorder symptoms among girls who are dating.
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Thesis advisor: Zaitsoff, Shannon
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