Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Frederick G. Grieve (Director), Dr. Amy M. Brausch, Dr. Elizabeth L. Jones

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Many studies reported that childhood abuse and stress play contributory roles in the development and maintenance of disordered eating behaviors. However, these studies made no mentioned efforts to validate their self-report data, and thus failed to separate the effects of actuality versus perception of childhood abuse. Thus, the current study examined how perceptions of childhood abuse and life stress affect binge eating behavior among university students.

Participants for the current study included 173 undergraduate students, recruited via Study Board. After giving verbal consent, participants completed a series of surveys and questionnaires that collected demographic data, and measured perception of abuse, perceived stress levels and binge eating activity. Upon completion, participants were given either course credits or extra credits, to be given at the discretion of their professors.

Results indicated that all of the hypotheses were supported. There were significant differences between the perception of abuse and the perceived life stress conditions (respectively). Furthermore, both of the independent variables were shown to be predictive of binge eating behavior. However, there was no interaction effect between the two independent variables. Moreover, these two variables did not moderate each other in terms of predicting binge eating behavior among university students.

Findings from this study indicated that perceptions of childhood abuse and recent life stress are both predictive of binge eating activity among university students, which was highest among individuals with a perceived history of childhood abuse. While findings from this study showed a correlation between perception of abuse and binge eating behavior, they did not show a correlation between reporting of actual incidents of childhood abuse and binge eating behavior. There were a number of limitations to the study, including limited generalizability of the findings, limited reliability of self-report measures, and any confounding of analyzed data due to order effect. Future studies are encouraged to further explore the relationship between perception and actuality of childhood abuse.


Health Psychology