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Exploring the Relationship between Childhood Interpersonal Violence, Cortisol Stress Response, and Stress Eating

Midei, Aimee J (2013) Exploring the Relationship between Childhood Interpersonal Violence, Cortisol Stress Response, and Stress Eating. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Histories of childhood interpersonal violence have been linked to overweight and obesity in adulthood. Despite the fact that victimization experiences are likely to co-occur within individuals, few studies have examined poly-victimization in the context of overweight or obesity. The current study aimed to: (1) determine whether poly-victimization was associated with body mass index and waist circumference in a sample of undergraduate women, and (2)
explore plausible physiological and behavioral mechanisms accounting for the relationship, specifically cortisol and ad libitum eating in response to laboratory stress. Undergraduate women from the University of Pittsburgh responded to an online survey measuring history of six
different childhood victimization experiences: physical abuse, sexual abuse, peer violence,intimate partner violence, community violence, and witnessing violence. Ninety-two healthy women were recruited into 2 study groups (n = 48 with no history of childhood victimization [controls]; and n = 44 endorsing a history of 2 or more different types of childhood victimization [poly-victims]). Study protocol occurred 3 hours after lunch and included standardized laboratory stressors (public speech and math task) followed by a 30 minute relaxation period that included ad libitum access to snack foods with varying caloric density. Salivary cortisol was assessed at
three points across the laboratory session. Women reporting poly-victimization had higher body mass index after adjusting for childhood socioeconomic status, family history of obesity, and alcohol use. The relationship was weaker with the outcome of waist circumference. Poly-victims did not eat more following stress, although poly-victims who perceived their performance as worse on the stress task consumed more calories, controlling for childhood socioeconomic status and hunger at study entry. Unexpectedly, poly-victims showed blunted cortisol response to the stress task compared to controls, after adjusting for childhood socioeconomic status and birth control use. Bootstrapping tests of mediation showed that neither cortisol response to stress nor stress eating were significant mediators in the relationship between childhood interpersonal violence and body mass index. In conclusion, results from the present study suggest that poly-
victimization is a risk factor for body mass index, and cortisol and eating responses to stress do not appear to mediate the relationship.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Midei, Aimee
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMatthews, Karen Amatthewska@upmc.eduXYOO
Committee MemberMarcus, Marsha Dmarcusmd@upmc.eduMMARCUS
Committee MemberKalarchian, Melissa
Committee MemberMarsland, Annamarsland@pitt.eduMARSLAND
Committee MemberKamarck, Thomastkam@pitt.eduTKAM
Date: 30 September 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 5 June 2012
Approval Date: 30 September 2013
Submission Date: 22 August 2013
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 132
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: childhood violence, body mass index, waist circumference, cortisol, stress eating, and obesity
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2013 14:03
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2016 14:41


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