ADHD symptoms and diet quality in adolescence: examining indirect effects of eating behaviors and the role of peer problems

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jeannette C. Robb (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Susan Keane

Abstract: Emerging literature has suggested that Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may be associated with poorer diet quality, though the processes underlying this link are still unclear. The current study sought to examine how ADHD symptoms are related to diet quality by examining both the direct link between ADHD and diet quality in adolescence, as well as indirect associations through two eating behaviors. External eating, defined as eating in response to external cues, and emotional eating, defined as eating in response to negative affect, were examined as potential mediators of the association between ADHD symptoms and diet quality. Furthermore, this study addressed gaps in the literature by considering how peer problems, a salient environmental context in adolescence, may impact the association between ADHD symptoms and emotional eating. The current study used a path analysis to examine the direct effect of ADHD symptoms at age 15 on diet quality at age 16, as well as the indirect effect through external eating and the indirect effect through emotional eating conditional on peer problems. ADHD symptoms, eating behaviors, and peer problems were measured using questionnaires, while diet quality was assessed through a 24-hour dietary recall. Results revealed a significant direct effect of ADHD symptoms on diet quality, as well as a small but significant indirect effect through external eating, such that higher ADHD symptoms were associated with higher external eating and lower diet quality, as hypothesized. Peer problems significantly moderated the association between ADHD symptoms and emotional eating, such that adolescents with higher ADHD symptoms and higher peer problems were at greatest risk for emotional eating. Contrary to hypotheses, emotional eating was positively associated with diet quality. Implications for future research and clinical interventions are discussed.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2020
ADHD, Diet quality
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder $x Nutritional aspects
Interpersonal relations in adolescence $x Health aspects
Food habits $x Psychological aspects

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