Are perfectionistic concerns an antecedent of or a consequence of binge eating, or both? A short-term four-wave longitudinal study of undergraduate women

The perfectionism model of binge eating (PMOBE) posits perfectionistic concerns are a vulnerability factor for binge eating. And evidence indicates perfectionistic concerns and binge eating correlate positively. However, the direction of this relationship is seldom studied. Accordingly, it is unclear whether perfectionistic concerns represent an antecedent of binge eating (a vulnerability effect with perfectionistic concerns predicting increases in binge eating), a consequence of binge eating (a complication effect with binge eating predicting increases in
perfectionistic concerns), or both (reciprocal relations with perfectionistic concerns predicting increases in binge eating and vice versa). To address these questions, we studied 200 undergraduate women using a 4- week, 4-wave cross-lagged longitudinal design. Consistent with the PMOBE, perfectionistic concerns predicted increased binge eating (vulnerability effect). But, binge eating did not predict increased perfectionistic concerns (complication effect). Findings support the long-held theory that perfectionistic concerns are part of the premorbid personality of women vulnerable to binge eating.