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Sources of Disordered Eating Patterns Between Ballet Dancers and Non-Dancers

The purposes of the present study were to compare selected psycho-behavioral characteristics between Australian adolescent-aged ballet dancers and non-dancers linked to disordered eating patterns, and to determine selected psychological characteristics that most likely predisposed ballet dancers at risk for developing these patterns. Three predisposing characteristics were identified, the type and frequency of weight control behaviors used by dancers, the association between the dancers’ concerns about their diet and weight, and evidence of psychological disturbance among the dancers commonly found among eating disordered patients. A significant MANOVA and subsequent univariate analyses indicated that ballet dancers were more at risk for developing eating disorders than non-dancers, and that dancers demonstrated greater weight preoccupation, body dissatisfaction, and perfectionism than non-dancers. As opposed to non-dancers, dancers scored markedly higher for perfectionism, less body satisfaction, and a desire for thinness. Dancers showed psychopathology common among women with disordered eating patterns. Additional research is needed examining the antecedents of these characteristics among dancers and the effectiveness of interventions that help prevent disordered eating patterns.