Beyond difficulties in self-regulation: the role of identity integration and personality functioning in young women with disordered eating behaviours

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Journal of Eating Disorders


Background: Past research has established individual relationships between disordered eating behaviours (DEB) and both self-regulation difficulties and identity disturbance. However, no research has looked at the shared influence of these constructs on DEB nor at personality functioning in individuals with DEB. Methods: In the present study, self-regulation was explored in terms of effortful control, impulsivity and emotion regulation while identity integration was measured in terms of impairments in self-functioning using a sample of 247 undergraduate students. Results: Significant associations were found between all components of self-regulation and DEB, with the exception of impulsivity. Identity instability was also associated with self-regulation difficulties and DEB. Structural Equation Modelling analyses indicated that identity instability partially mediated the relationship between self-regulation and DEB. Lastly, disordered eating was associated with difficulties in personality functioning, with young women presenting with DEB reporting significantly greater difficulties in both self and interpersonal personality functioning. Conclusion: Behavioural eating anomalies should be considered as epiphenomena secondary to a possible deeper issue that reflects difficulties related to identity integration and potential personality functioning. The clinical implications of these findings are discussed.

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