The MMPI-3’s Eating Concerns (EAT) Scale: A study on

The PATS lab just published another paper on the MMPI-3, just accepted into the Journal of Personality Assessment. This time, we took a look at the new 5-item Eating Concerns (EAT) scale and examined the potential of gender differences on its utility and validity. Because EAT is designed as a general screener of eating pathology, and because past work has found an over-focus on restrictive and purging disordered eating patterns, we expected that gender-related trends in eating behaviors would translate into different validity and general utility.

In short, we were right. We found, consistent with past research, that eating patterns more associated with masculinity and seen more frequently in men (e.g., binge eating, bulking, etc) were less evident on EAT. Men were less likely to endorse items, achieve clinically significant elevations, and demonstrated weaker validity coefficients to external criteria relative to women. Validity coefficient differences varied depending on the criteria/content area, ranging from small to large. Differences generally fell just below a medium effect, so while this may not mean clinically impactful differences to some (see Rosnow et al., 2000) it does increase the consistent probability of error during interpretation because the trends are so widespread.

These patterns were replicated not only in our sample of college students, but also within the technical manual’s comparison samples (Normative, outpatient, private practice, and college student) which provides strong evidence of generalizability. Broadly, our work emphasizes the need to incorporate a more diverse and multiculturally sensitive approach to scale creation in issues with well known differential presentation patterns. Specific to disordered eating, our research draws into questions how gender is evaluated in scale differential functioning. Specifically, we postulate a need for studies on trans/non-binary individuals, as well as gender norms’ impact on scale interpretation more broadly. Cole’s ongoing work on these two points will offer clinicians guidance about how to make sure no issues are missed, or over-interpreted, across different groups.

Some important things to note: (1) This is YET ANOTHER paper by the fantastic Cole Morris and (2) The second author is one of our former undergrad RAs who is now off doing their masters program at NorthWestern. Citation below. pre-print PDF coming soon.

Morris, N.M., Shepard, E., & Ingram, P.B. (In Press) Investigating the Validity of the MMPI-3 Eating Concerns (EAT) scale in a University Sample: Replication and Extension. Journal of Personality Assessment

Published by Dr. Ingram's Psychology Research Lab

I'm an assistant professor of counseling psychology at Texas Tech University and an active researcher of psychological assessment, veterans, and treatment engagement. I am also in private practice here in Lubbock Texas.

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