A longitudinal study of weight and shape concerns and disordered eating groups by gender and their relationship to self-control



Weight/shape concerns and disordered eating are common among young adults. Minimal research has examined these variables longitudinally by gender and in connection to self-control. The present study examined the level of weight/shape concerns and disordered eating at the end of the first and fourth year of college separately by gender and explored differences in self-control.


Participants included 394 female and 157 male undergraduates (N = 551; 40% non-white) who were categorized into three groups using a cluster analysis by gender: low weight/shape concerns and low disordered eating (LowWS–LowDE group), high weight/shape concerns and low disordered eating (HighWS–LowDE group), and high weight/shape concerns and high disordered eating (HighWS–HighDE group).


Approximately, 62% of women and 54% of men reported having weight/shape concerns and/or disordered eating at the end of the first year of college, and around 51% of women and 44% of men reported having weight/shape concerns and/or disordered eating at the end of the fourth year. Results indicated that those in the HighWS–HighDE group had lower self-control compared to those in the LowWS–LowDE group at the end of the first and fourth year in both women and men. Women, but not men, who worsened in weight/shape concerns and/or disordered eating over time also reported significantly decreased self-control from their first to their fourth year.


Findings support the role of self-control in the maintenance of weight/shape concerns and disordered eating for both women and men.

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Evidence obtained from well-designed cohort or case–control analytic studies

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Project investigators (in alphabetical order, Steven R. Asher, Kerstin K. Blomquist, Rick H. Hoyle, Mark R. Leary, Beth A. Pontari, Cinnamon A. Stetler, Timothy J. Strauman, Lauren A. Stutts, Debra F. Terrell, and Molly S. Weeks), research staff (in alphabetical order, Jeremy Chaikind, Victoria Guinn, Ashley Hufnagle, Frances Lobo, Sejal Lyons, Linas Mitchell, Qinhua Sun, and Andrew Zeveney), and student life colleagues on the four campuses contributed to the research.


This research was supported by Grant no. 13-EDU-MS-01-SP from The Duke Endowment to Davidson College, Duke University, Furman University, and Johnson C. Smith University.

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Correspondence to Lauren A. Stutts.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee (Davidson College Institutional Review Board: 2019-004; Duke University Institutional Review Board: C0234; Furman University Institutional Review Board: no protocol number, and Johnson C. Smith University Institutional Review Board: no protocol number) and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Males and eating and weight disorders.

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Stutts, L.A., Blomquist, K.K. A longitudinal study of weight and shape concerns and disordered eating groups by gender and their relationship to self-control. Eat Weight Disord 26, 227–237 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40519-020-00844-4

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  • Weight/shape concerns
  • Disordered eating
  • Self-control
  • College
  • Gender