Factors that influence the longitudinal development of eating disorders in adolescents

About this study

Our research seeks to understand factors that establish vulnerability for adolescents to develop difficulties with eating. Adolescents aged between 11-18 years old develop eating disorders more than any other age group, a factor not unrelated to the substantial range of changes and challenges adolescence experience. These changes happen in social and emotional domains as well as in the ways adolescents develop in thinking about themselves and others. This project is the first of its kind to aim to identify and measure factors which may lead to disordered eating behaviours in a longitudinal design, within an Australian adolescent population. This is highly significant due to the lack of extant research on adolescent eating disorders and the likelihood of continued struggles for such adolescents with disordered eating behaviours into adulthood if the disordered eating behaviours are not addressed and treated early. In this way, our project is also significant in contributing to the potential to address eating disorders prior to their onset. Currently models for addressing eating disorders centre on treatment of current onsets for adolescents rather than early identification, intervention and prevention. In this way, this research will aim to proliferate a means of identifying the potential risk factors for an adolescent developing and eating disorder and thus enabling appropriate mental health or medical professionals to provide recommendations based on prevention and early intervention rather than treatment of a clinically significant and diagnosable onset of the eating disorder. The proposed project aims to address gaps in the literature by systematically reviewing current eating disorder research relevant to developmental trajectories, identifying potential factors which predict the developmental of eating disorders in adolescents, developing an quantitative survey to gather relevant data on these factors from Australian school-attending adolescents and assessing this in a cross-sectional and longitudinal design. The goals of this research include addressing the following research questions/aims: Identification of factors implicated in the developmental trajectory towards eating difficulties in a normative sample of Australian school-attending adolescents. Inform parents, teachers and adolescents of the major risk factors for the development of eating difficulties amongst adolescents. Through informing parents, teachers and adolescents or the potential risk factors, assist in the early identification of adolescents whom are most at risk for developing eating difficulties, allowing for early intervention and appropriate preventative treatment

Research TeamMiss Shauna Byrne (PhD candidate), Dr John John McAloon (PhD), Dr Christopher Basten (PhD)
InstitutionThe University of Technology Sydney
Ethics Approval NumberETH18­2254
Funding SourceAustralian Government Research Training Program Stipend
Project Start Date1 June 2019
Project End Date30 June 2021
ParticipantsThis research will involve collecting information from adolescents directly. This research intends to recruit 1000-1,500 adolescents at time point 1 (between April-June in 2019) and approximately a similar amount at time point 2 (between September-November in 2020) with an ethics amendment in progress to collect the same data at the third time point. To account for attrition, this recruitment number is well above the expected sample size to achieve statistically significant results. This sample size is to ensure a large number of participants are retained at time point 1 in the case of participant drop-out at time point 2.

Participants will be excluded forms this research if:
- They are not aged between 11-18
- They have been diagnosed with an eating disorder
- They have been diagnosed with a Neurodevelopmental disorder like Autism
- They have experience of child protection, out of home care or have been in detention.
Whats InvolvedThe researchers are interested in working with schools collaboratively and effectively in order to benefit adolescent’s lives early on and nurture their progression throughout high school. It is envisaged that schools will be contacted for their expression of interest to participate in the study and upon approval, we will request they advertise the research within their organisational meetings and through newsletters etc. On that basis, we will provide consent forms to adolescents less than 18 years of age for completion by their parents to opt into the study. On contact, we will provide prospective participants with information about the research and what would be required of them should they choose to participate in it. We also anticipate that some will want to have verbal discussion about the research prior to confirming their participation and we are happy to respond on an as needs basis prior to gaining informed consent from participants. At this point, we would be in a position to release the online survey for completion by adolescents who have opted into the study.
The survey will be distributed through an online platform, Qualtrics. If they decide to take part, adolescents will be invited to complete a two-part online survey. The first part will happen between April and June 2019, the second between September and November 2020. Each survey will take approximately 40 minutes to complete, and this would be completed during a time elected by each school. The online survey will consist of questionnaires that ask about:
-Eating Characteristics
-Peer influence on eating attitudes and behaviours
-Parent Influence on eating attitudes and behaviours
-Sibling Influence on eating attitudes and behaviours
-Psychological Wellbeing
-Social Media Influence on eating attitudes and behaviours
-Alcohol and Other drug use

Participants will be signed up to both time-points and they will be asked to provide their contact email address in order for the Qualtrics system to automatically remind them to complete the second part of the survey the following year.
Participants will be assigned a Unique Participant Identifying code (UPI). This code will then be attached to the participant's name stored separately in a password-protected file. The UPI will then be attached to all participant research data and this will be stored without reference to participant identifying information in an independent password protected files. The UPC is important as the study will collect data in psychometric, narrative and biological form and it is likely that for a portion of time these data will be stored in separate secure locations.
Participants will not be individually identifiable in any published or unpublished data. All collected data will be stored securely as discussed in previous questions, and no data is ever published in a non-aggregated way allows it or the parent of child to be identified. On completion of the study all identifying information will be destroyed.
LocationPublic, Private and Catholic High schools in NSW
Contact Details

Shauna Byrne/ 0401903124/ shauna.byrne@student.uts.edu.au

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