Self-Esteem and Symptoms of Eating-Disordered Behavior Among Female Adolescents

Psychol Rep. 2021 Aug;124(4):1515-1538. doi: 10.1177/0033294120948226. Epub 2020 Aug 6.


Background: Compared to males, female adolescents show greater concerns about their appearance, concerns related to their self-esteem. We explored the associations between self-esteem, body image and BMI as proxies for appearance, and eating-disordered behavior among adolescent females.

Methods: A total of 263 females (mean age:15.78 years) took part in this study. They completed questionnaires covering anthropometric characteristics, self-esteem, eating-disordered behavior, subjective physical activity levels, and body image.

Results: Higher scores for self-esteem were associated with higher scores for eating-disordered behavior, indices of physical activity, and slimmer body image. Body image was not associated with eating-disordered behavior. Multiple regression analyses showed that self-esteem, but not physical activity, or body image predicted eating-disordered behavior.

Conclusions: Among a non-clinical sample of female adolescents, self-esteem and eating-disordered behavior were positively associated. Body image was associated in a complex and contradictory fashion. It is possible that cognitive-emotional mastering of the vital impulse to eat may enhance self-esteem.

Keywords: BMI; adolescents; eating-disordered behavior; physical activity; self-esteem.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Body Image / psychology
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Self Concept*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires