Interpersonal attribution bias and social evaluation in adolescent eating disorders

Jessica A. Harper, Jayme M. Palka, Carrie J. McAdams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Improved understanding of adolescent eating disorders (EDs), including identification and refinement of treatment and recovery targets, may help improve clinical outcomes. Interpersonal function is a proposed risk and maintenance factor that may be particularly relevant given the significance of adolescence for both psychosocial development and ED onset. This study examined self-referential thinking in adolescents with EDs compared to healthy adolescents. Method: Twenty-nine adolescents with EDs and 31 healthy controls completed a self-report measure of interpersonal attributions as well as a verbal appraisal task that required conducting direct and indirect evaluations about oneself and direct evaluations about others. Results: The ED group had a more negative self-attribution bias than the control group (p = 0.006) even when controlling for depression severity. Additionally, the ED group exhibited less positive direct self (p < 0.001), direct social (p = 0.015), and social reflected self-appraisals (p = 0.011) than the healthy cohort. After including depression as a covariate in the verbal appraisal model, the model was no longer significant, suggesting group differences related to social appraisals may be mediated by depression. Conclusions: Adolescents with EDs have more negative interpersonal beliefs than comparison adolescents. Future studies are needed to determine how the constructs identified here relate to clinical course.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)258-270
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Eating Disorders Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • adolescent development
  • depression
  • eating disorder
  • self-concept
  • social identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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