Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Balance, W.


Psychology, Clinical.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


The present investigation assessed relations between personality factors and eating disordered attitudes and behaviours. Specifically, the study evaluated the degree of association between varying levels of eating disorders and the dimensions of Autonomy and Sociotropy, two personality traits suggested by past research to be linked with both depression and eating disorders. Autonomy measures a heightened focus on issues of self-definition and self-worth, whereas Sociotropy measures excessive investment in maintaining interpersonal relationships. This study utilized these measures, along with a projective test to evaluate a psychodynamic model of eating disorders. The model postulates that eating disturbances arise from an underlying anaclitic depression that is defended against by exaggerated autonomy strivings (i.e., overcontrol of food and/or weight). Unconscious dependency needs were hypothesized to have not only a direct relationship to eating problems but also an indirect relationship to eating problems mediated by autonomy concerns (e.g., perfectionism, self-criticism, high need for control). The study also evaluated whether eating-disordered and control samples could be differentiated on the basis of these personality dimensions. Finally, the study examined the relationship of Autonomy and Sociotropy to other personality traits commonly believed to have etiological significance in the development of eating disorders (e.g., Ineffectiveness, Interoceptive Awareness). To evaluate the hypotheses, 267 female undergraduates and 44 women meeting DSM-IV criteria for eating disorders completed self-report measures of Autonomy and Sociotropy (Personal Style Inventory), the Rorschach Oral Dependency Scale, the Beek Depression Inventory and several measures of eating disturbance, including the Eating Attitudes Test, Eating Disorder Inventory, and the Bulimia Test. Results indicated that eating disordered and nonclinical groups could be distinguished reliably from one another on the basis of Autonomy, Sociotropy, and Oral Dependency measures. The results of a logistic regression analysis indicated that a total of 85% of the eating disordered subjects were correctly classified on the basis of the three personality variables. In addition, the path analysis generally provided support for the hypothesized theoretical model. Autonomy, Sociotropy, and Oral Dependency explained a significant proportion of the variance in eating disturbances in addition to that accounted for by depression. Overall, the results suggested that the comorbidity between eating disorders and depression may be partially explained by common underlying personality factors and that these traits may have potential utility in identifying individuals at risk of developing eating disorders.Dept. of Psychology. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis1998 .N375. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 61-09, Section: B, page: 4997. Adviser: William Balance. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 1998.