Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Barrett, Sheila

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

School of Health Studies


Purpose: There is a gap in literature on disordered eating among college freshmen since 2011. Research has shown that disordered eating manifests itself during adolescence and is likely to transcend into adulthood1,7,8,9,14,15. The freshmen year in college is likely to be challenging for many students. During this time, they may develop disordered eating or perpetuate an existing condition3,4,14,15. This research study investigated the prevalence of disordered eating among college freshmen and factors that may impact this development. A comparison of prior history of disordered eating was also examined.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey study was conducted on college freshmen at Northern Illinois University. The Disordered Eating Attitude Scale, the Perceived Stress Scale, and the Perceived Sociocultural Pressure Scale were compiled together to create an overall survey tool for this research study.

Results: Questionnaires were completed by 158 females, 47 males, and 2 who prefer to self-describe. The mean age was 20 years old. Students increased their disordered eating behaviors while attending Northern Illinois University compared to their behaviors prior to attending college. Participants’ ideas of normalized eating, measured by the Disordered Eating Attitude Scale, were hindered while attending college (35.46 ± 7.75, P = 0.000). Most were found to be experiencing moderate levels of perceived stress as measured by the Perceived Stress Scale (21.26 ± 7.18), where females and younger students were more likely to be more stressed. Gender (P = 0.004) and weight (P = 0.000) were found to influence individuals’ pressures to be thin as well as teasing from family and friends. Females were more likely than males to experience these changes, thus hindering their attitudes and behaviors related to food. Perceived stress (P = 0.000) and sociocultural pressures (P = 0.000) were found to influence participants disordered eating behaviors throughout their freshmen year of college.

Conclusion: The main goal of this study was to determine if college students developed behaviors of disordered eating throughout their freshmen year. The data analyses found that increased behaviors of disordered eating were seen in students while attending college compared to prior to coming to college. Students’ ideas of normal eating, relationship with food and restrictive and compensatory practices were specifically affected. Females and those who prefer to self-describe were also found to be experiencing higher levels of perceived stress and pressures to be thin.


109 pages




Northern Illinois University

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