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The Scientific World Journal
Volume 2012, Article ID 290813, 8 pages
Research Article

Eating Disorders and Intrasexual Competition: Testing an Evolutionary Hypothesis among Young Women

1Ferham Clinic, Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust, Rotherham S61 1AJ, UK
2Swallownest Court, Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust, Rotherham S26 4TH, UK
3Department of Psychology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ85721, USA
4Loughborough University Centre for Research into Eating Disorders, Department of Human Science, Loughborough University, Leicestershire LE11 3TU, UK
5Leicester Eating Disorder Service, Leicester General Hospital, Leicester LE3 9DY, UK

Received 28 October 2011; Accepted 20 December 2011

Academic Editors: S. A. Freedman, G. Hasler, L. L. Lykouras, and D. Meyre

Copyright © 2012 Riadh Abed et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The sexual competition hypothesis (SCH) contends that intense female intrasexual competition (ISC) is the ultimate cause of eating disorders. The SCH explains the phenomenon of the pursuit of thinness as an adaptation to ISC in the modern environment. It argues that eating disorders are pathological phenomena that arise from the mismatch between the modern environment and the inherited female adaptations for ISC. The present study has two aims. The first is to examine the relationship between disordered eating behavior (DEB) and ISC in a sample of female undergraduates. The second is to establish whether there is any relationship between disordered eating behavior and life history (LH) strategy. Participants completed a battery of questionnaires examining eating-related attitudes and behaviors, ISC, and LH strategy. A group of 206 female undergraduates were recruited. A structural equation model was constructed to analyze the data. ISC for mates was significantly associated with DEB, as predicted by the SCH. DEB was found to be predicted by fast LH strategy, which was only partially mediated by the SCH. The results of this study are supportive of the SCH and justify research on a clinical sample.