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UCL Psychology and Language Sciences

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Risk factors of eating disorders in athletes

Overall aims:

The aim of this project is to explore the risk factors for eating disorders and disordered eating in athletes using both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. It will look specifically at how sport pressures and societal pressures contribute to eating psychopathology. This research will involve the application of a theoretical model (Petrie & Greenleaf, 2007, 2012) to a wide variety of athletes across the UK. This model will be adapted as necessary and then will be tested using structural equation modelling at several longitudinal time points as well as a qualitative exploration into athletes’ views on the matter. This project aims to tie together the world of sport psychology research and clinical psychology research to fill in a current void in the literature.

Overview of research:

The first step in this research was an extensive systematic literature review. The results of that review were then used to determine which measures were best to use in Study 1. The purpose of Study 1 was to test the above mentioned theoretical model on over 1,000 UK-based athletes and dancers. Results of Study 1 produced a more well-fitting model that better explains disordered eating devleopment in athletes. A qualtitative investigation into the discrepancy between the original theoretical model and the better-firring applied model was then undertaken. Study 2 will be a longitudinal study that will involve restesting the athletes in Study 1 at two further time points.