Role of childhood maltreatment on weight and weight-related behaviors in adulthood.

Andrea L. Ruiz, Sarah A. Font

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective: This study investigated associations between child maltreatment and body mass, body weight perceptions, and weight control behaviors among men and women. Method: Data were derived from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). Multinomial logistic regression was used to investigate links between dimensions of childhood maltreatment and adult (a) classifications of body mass index (BMI), (b) discrepancies in perceived weight and actual BMI categories, and (c) normative and risky weight control behaviors. Results: Childhood maltreatment was highly predictive of BMI classification, weight perception discrepancies, and weight control behaviors for women. Women who reported physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect had increased risks for being slightly or very overweight, and among those who reported physical abuse and/or a combination of physical abuse and neglect, there is an increased likelihood of holding overweight perceptions. Finally, female victims of physical abuse, physical abuse and neglect, and of neglect only were more likely to adopt risky (e.g., diet pills or purging) versus normative (e.g., diet and exercise) weight control behaviors. Conclusion: Results indicated that women who reported childhood maltreatment have increased risks for developing body and weight related issues, confirming research documenting female-specific effects of childhood maltreatment. For women, certain forms of maltreatment strongly predicted BMI groupings, discrepant weight perceptions, and risky weight behaviors. Taken together, findings suggest that child maltreatment is a predictor of health-related outcomes. Moreover, results highlight the importance of assessing gender-specific effects when examining outcomes related to body, weight, and dieting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHealth Psychology
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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