Identification of Eating Disordered Behavior in College-Aged Female Athletes

Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Exercise and Sport Studies



Major Advisor

Ronald P. Pfeiffer


Genger C. Fahleson


James Nicholson


Eating disorders are not only seen in the average population but also seen in athletes. During the past decade, female athletes have been identified as a population particularly at risk for developing eating disorders (Burckes-Miller & Black, 1991; Striegel-Moore, Silberstein, & Rodin, 1986). Research examining sport environments has demonstrated that disordered eating and pathogenic weight-control behaviors (e.g., vomiting, dieting, laxatives) do occur relatively frequently in female athletes, particularly in sports or athletic endeavors, such as gymnastics, that emphasize thinness or appearance (Borgen & Corbin, 1987; Burckes-Miller & Black, 1988; Harris & Greco, 1990).

The purpose of this study was to see where subject’s Eating Disorder Inventory scores would fall in comparison to the normative values for the same age, gender, and student reference group. In addition, if there would be any differences across team values for each subscale of measure on the Eating Disorder Inventory. The subjects (N=43) consisted of NCAA Division I female athletes from the following athletic teams: volleyball (N=14), cross-country (N=6), tennis (N=8), and gymnastics (N=15).

Instrumentation included the Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI), a 64-item, 6-point Likert-type scale, with responses ranging from always to never.

The Kruskal-Wallis nonparametric test was performed to compare any differences across teams on subscale values. Statistical significance (p=0.007) was found for the tennis team on the subscale Maturity Fears. Dunn’s multiple comparison procedure was the follow-up test showing statistical significance (p<0.05) when comparing tennis vs. cross-country and tennis vs. volleyball. There was no significance when comparing tennis vs. gymnastics and gymnastics vs. cross-country.

Of the eleven subscales measured on the EDI, volleyball occupied 45% of the high scores and tennis 55% of the high scores. Of the 43 athletes responding to the questionnaire, 11 (25.6%) could be classified as “at risk” by virtue of their scores on the Eating Disorder Inventory.

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