Background

Loss of control (LOC) eating puts youth at greater risk of weight gain, poor health outcomes and is linked to markers of psychosocial distress. However, few studies have examined these relationships while examining the potential protective or vulnerability role of race/ethnicity.

Methods

Participants were 1,285 U.S. adolescents (11-14 years; 51% girls) identifying as non-Hispanic White (54%), Hispanic/Latinx (21%), Black (10%), or Multi-Racial/Ethnic (15%). Validated questionnaires of LOC eating (αs=.93-.94), anxiety (αs=.87-.91), and depressive symptoms (αs=.91-.93) were administered during school in Fall 2016 (T1), Spring 2017 (T2), and Fall 2017 (T3).

Results

Multiple group analyses of autoregressive cross-lagged path models indicated the presence of differences in all parameters for White, Black, and Multi-Racial/Ethnic adolescents (ps<.01), with no differences between White and Hispanic/Latinx adolescents (ps>.05). Models fit the data well (CFIs=.96-.98; RMSEAs=.04-.06), and adjusted for age, gender, socioeconomic status, and BMI-z. Among White and Hispanic/Latinx adolescents, positive, longitudinal associations were found between LOC and depressive symptoms (βs=.09-.11, ps<.05), as well as LOC and panic disorder symptoms (βs=.09-.14, ps<.05), from T1 to T2 and T2 to T3. The bidirectional associations between LOC and panic disorder symptoms also were found among multi-racial/ethnic adolescents, but with more robust effects (βs=.17-.26, ps<.01). Among Black adolescents, more frequent LOC at T1 and T2 predicted greater increases in social anxiety disorder symptoms at T2 and T3, respectively (βs=.19-.21, ps<.01).

Conclusions

These findings stress that the relationships between LOC eating and internalizing symptoms are distinct among most racial/ethnic subgroups, and show no protection from these relationships based on racial/ethnic minority status.