Stage of change : relation to risk factors for binge eating and other health-risk behaviours among university women
Donato, Andrea Marie
Master of Arts
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The transtheoretical model delineates the different stages that individuals go through as they change maladaptive behaviours: precontemplation, contemplation, action, and maintenance (Prochaska, DiClemente, & Norcross, 1992). These stages of change have been researched for many types of health-risk behaviours including smoking, drinking, unprotected sex and, more recently, binge eating. Research to date has not begun to combine the findings fi*om the research on the stages o f change with the well-researched area concerning risk factors for binge eating. Thus, the purposes o f the present study were to (a) investigate whether body dissatisfaction, dieting, negative and positive affect, self-esteem, social support and stress, and body mass are associated with stage o f change for binge eating, (b) explore if these factors are associated with the stage of change for smoking, heavy drinking, and unprotected sex, (c) investigate if the stages differ in regards to the severity of the behaviour, and (d) explore the comorbidity with these health-risk behaviours and vomiting, pill use, and excessive exercise across the stages of change for binge eating. Participants were 266 female university students who completed a questionnaire package including all measures. It was found that body dissatisfaction, dieting, negative affect, self-esteem were related to the stages of change for binge eating. More specifically, those in the action stage appeared to suffer the most. Some o f these risk factors discriminated participants as a function o f their stage of change for smoking, but not for heavy drinking or unprotected sex. Comorbidity with the health-risk behaviours appeared to be similar across the stages of change for binge eating, although there were group differences in comorbidity for vomiting, pill use, and excessive exercise. Again, at least in regards to vomiting, those in the action stage appeared to suffer the most. This research has indicated that there are differences in proven risk factors for binge eating across the stages of change. Although in need of further investigation, it appears that those in the action stage for binge eating suffer the most distress, and have the most disordered attitudes and behaviours. These preliminary findings, if replicated by longitudinal research, would add to our understanding o f the process o f change for binge eating. Furthermore, differences in risk and protective factors across the stages of change have implications for research methodologies and treatment of binge eating. To further extend these findings, future research could investigate these risk factors in relation to binge eating among certain populations or other risk and protective factors, other disordered eating behaviours and attitudes, and other health-risk behaviours.