The influence of childhood polyvictimization on disordered eating symptoms in emerging adulthood


Children who endure multiple victimization experiences, or “polyvictims," are vulnerable to maladaptive outcomes. Yet, little research exists evaluating the relationship between childhood polyvictimization and disordered eating symptoms (DES) in emerging adulthood. The current study examines the relationship between childhood polyvictimization and DES in emerging adults. Data were collected from 288 participants across two universities using online self-report measures. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed a significant positive relationship between number of childhood victimization experiences and DES in young adulthood (ß = 0.14; p = 0.016). Female participants were more likely to demonstrate DES (ß = 0.14; p = 0.008). Further, high levels of emotion dysregulation during young adulthood were associated with more DES (ß = 0.33; p < 0.001). Findings suggest that exposure to victimization experiences in childhood increases individuals’ risk for exhibiting DES in young adulthood. Results also highlight the strong relationship between individuals’ emotion regulation abilities and the presence of DES. Findings align with the theory that children who have endured high levels of victimization often feel overwhelmed by their emotions and circumstances, demonstrate emotion regulation difficulties, and may rely on maladaptive coping strategies, including disordered eating, to manage adversities. Study results emphasize the importance of considering victimization history when working with emerging adults displaying disordered eating symptomatology.

Publication Title

Child Abuse and Neglect