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Weight loss attempts, emotional eating, internalized shame, and sexual abuse history in adults: A community sample

21 July 2009


Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is widespread global problem with both immediate and long-term health consequences. Disordered eating has long been proposed as one of the common psychological sequelae of CSA (Hastings & Kern, 1994; Romans, Gendall, Martin, & Mullen, 2001; Smolak, Levine, & Sullins, 1990; Steiger & Zanko, 1990; Weiner & Thompson, 1997), however, the exact mechanism remains unknown. Shame, which can be internalized over time, has also been associated with a history of abuse and has been empirically linked to many forms of psychopathology. In particular, internalized shame has been found to be enmeshed in bulimic psychopathology (Cook, 1991). The present study proposed a model where internalized shame acts as a mediator in the relationship between CSA and emotional eating. Questionnaires were completed by 255 adults (197 female, 58 male) in a community sample. Results indicated that CSA was associated with internalized shame, which was further related to emotional eating. In addition, a mediational model in which internalized shame mediates CSA and emotional eating was supported.


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