Journal of Undergraduate Research


relationship quality, eating disorder symptoms, body image perception in women


Family, Home, and Social Sciences




Eating Disorders (ED) are recognized as an important cause of morbidity and mortality in adolescents and adults and are much more common in women than in men. Women may exhibit ED symptoms but not be clinically diagnosed. Research has shown that individuals who exhibit sub-clinical eating disorder symptoms may eventually develop full syndrome. Thus, sub-threshold ED women are at increased risk but remain undiagnosed. Our culture often values women for their appearance, and this message is continually sent via media and other social institutions (e.g., religion), but having a supportive spouse can help buffer the negative messages women receive. While research has demonstrated the health protective benefits of marriage, research has also clearly shown that the quality of the marriage matters. Supportive marital relationships may buffer the effects incoming negative messages may have on a woman’s body image and eating behavior. However, relationships that are less supportive may not offer this same protection. Understanding the processes by which marital relationship quality (RQ) may impact ED behaviors can pave the way for interventions to improve marital RQ and decrease ED. A better understanding of the process also has implications for clinical practice by informing providers about the broader context of RQ and ED, which may be important in creating a plan of care. This study was an examination of the association between marital RQ and eating disorder (ED) behaviors in married women who had not yet been diagnosed with an eating disorder but were already showing symptoms of eating disorder behavior (“sub-threshold”). This study was unique in this aspect as no other study that we are aware of has assessed marital RQ in relation to eating disorder symptomology in sub-threshold women.

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