Date of Award

May 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Anthony A. Hains

Committee Members

William H. Davies, Nadya A. Fouad, Leah M. Rouse, Marty Sapp


College Women, Disordered Eating, Eating Disorders, Existential Well-being, Religious Well-being, Spiritual Well-being


The Theistic Model of Human Nature and Psychopathology suggests that human development and personality are influenced by biological, social, psychological, cognitive, and affective processes, but the essence of identity and personality is spiritual (Richards and Bergin, 2005). Religious/spiritual issues are often crucial components in understanding the etiology of and recovery from mental illness, including but not limited to eating disorders (Plante & Sharma, 2001; Richards, Hardman, & Berrett, 2007). There is a paucity of quantitative research, however, examining the relationships and role of spirituality and eating disorders. The present study examines the relationship between spiritual well-being and disordered eating. Upper-level psychology students in research methods courses recruited appropriate participants: 158 women ages 18-24. Surveys were posted on an online research management program. Disordered eating was measured using the Eating Attitudes Test-26 (EAT-26; Garner & Garfinkel, 1979). The EAT-26 assesses food preoccupation, eating behaviors, laxative use, and purging. Spiritual well-being was measured using the Spiritual Well-Being Scale (SWBS; Paloutzian & Ellison, 1982), a 20-item self-report instrument assessing the degree to which individuals report that experience a satisfying relationship with God or a particular religious affiliation and the sense of life satisfaction and purpose independent of religion. EAT-26 scores were hypothesized to be significantly negatively correlated with SWBS scores; however, non-statistically significant relationship was found. This may be due to a non-clinical sample. Future research should focus on multiple factors, including but not limited to spirituality, that are related to eating disorder etiology and treatment.