An investigation into the effects of personality and perfectionism on the eating attitudes of ballet dancers, non-ballet dancers and non-dancers
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Teale, Joanna Helen
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The present study aimed to examine the effects of the “Big Five” personality dimensions and perfectionism on the eating attitudes and body dissatisfaction of young female ballet dancers, non-ballet dancers and non-dancers. It was hypothesised that ballet dancers would demonstrate more eating disorder symptomatology and higher neuroticism and perfectionism than non-ballet dancers and controls. Additionally, the study aimed to investigate whether the personality profile of ballet dancers is the sole cause of their increased risk of developing eating disorders, or whether other factors over and above this are contributing. A new scale termed the Eating Attitudes and Behaviours Questionnaire (EAB-Q) was developed based on the DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria for Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa to access eating disorder symptomatology. In a cross-sectional design, 113 non-dancers, 57 non-ballet dancers and 39 ballet dancers were asked to complete an online questionnaire package assessing body shape perceptions (BSQ), personality (NEO-FFI), perfectionism (MPS-F) and eating cognitions (EAB-Q) respectively. Principle-components analysis was performed on the EAB-Q, revealing a single factor. This factor correlated significantly with the BSQ, so participants’ scores on the EAB-Q and BSQ were averaged creating a new scale: Attitudes to Eating and Body Shape (AEBS). Four General Linear Models were used to test the hypotheses. In agreement with the hypotheses, ballet dancers showed significantly more disordered eating, and higher neuroticism and perfectionism than non-ballet dancers and non-dancers. Ballet dancers displayed a similar personality profile to individuals with the most disturbed eating. In addition, high neuroticism was the most significant independent predictor of disordered eating in ballet dancers. It is concluded that ballet dancers are at an increased risk of developing eating disorders. This can be partly explained in terms of personality and perfectionism. Possible explanations for these findings are discussed along with suggestions for future research.