Understanding eating disorder symptoms in same-gender couples: social environmental factors

Diane L. Rosenbaum, Kristin J. August, Meghan M. Gillen, Charlotte H. Markey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Sexual minority individuals are at disproportionately greater risk for eating disorders, yet little is known about the ways in which factors in the social environment relate to eating disorder symptoms in this population. Utilizing an ecological systems theory framework, we investigated the relative relationships of macro level (i.e., internalization of sociocultural attitudes about appearance) and micro level (i.e., quality of romantic relationship) social environment influences. Methods: Men (n = 144) and women (n = 144) in committed same-gender relationships were recruited as a dyad and completed study questionnaires, including multiple measures of eating disorder symptoms. Multilevel models controlling for key variables (e.g., body mass index) were used to examine gender differences, main effects, and interactions. Results: Men reported greater internalization of sociocultural attitudes and uncontrolled eating. Greater internalization of sociocultural attitudes was related to greater eating pathology across all measures. For men, greater relationship quality was related to less uncontrolled eating. Conclusions: Individuals in same-gender relationships experience macro (e.g., sociocultural) level vulnerability factors in relation to disordered eating; however, internalization of sociocultural attitudes may be greater for men. Support at the microsystem level in the form of a high quality committed romantic relationship appears to be helpful protection against uncontrolled eating for men.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6
JournalJournal of Eating Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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