Personality subtypes in adolescents with eating disorders: Validation of a classification approach

Heather Thompson-Brenner*, Kamryn T. Eddy, Dana A. Satir, Christina L. Boisseau, Drew Westen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

45 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Research has identified three personality subtypes in adults with eating disorders (EDs): a high-functioning, an undercontrolled, and an overcontrolled group. The current study investigated whether similar personality prototypes exist in adolescents with EDs, and whether these personality prototypes show relationships to external correlates indicative of diagnostic validity. Methods: Experienced clinicians from an adolescent practice-research network provided data on ED symptoms, DSM-IV comorbidity, personality pathology, and family and developmental history for 120 adolescent patients with EDs. Results: Consistent with the findings from the adult literature, three types of personality pathology emerged in adolescents: High-functioning/Perfectionistic, Emotionally Dysregulated, and Avoidant/Depressed. The High-functioning prototype showed negative associations with comorbidity and positive associations with treatment response. The Emotionally Dysregulated prototype was specifically associated with externalizing Axis I and Cluster B Axis II disorders, poor school functioning, and adverse events in childhood. The Avoidant/Depressed prototype showed specific associations with internalizing Axis I and Clusters A Axis II disorders, poor peer relationships, poor maternal relationships, and internalizing disorders in first-degree relatives. Conclusions: These data support the presence of at least three diagnostically meaningful personality prototypes in adolescents with EDs, similar to those found previously in adults. Diagnosis of adolescents with EDs may be usefully supplemented by the assessment of personality style.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-180
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Volume49
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2008

Keywords

  • Adolescence
  • Classification
  • Comorbidity
  • Eating disorder
  • Family factors
  • Personality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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