The Tripartite Influence Model of Body Image and Eating Disturbance: A Covariance Structure Modeling Investigation Testing the Mediational Role of Appearance Comparison

Patricia van den Berg, University of South Florida
Joel Kevin Thompson, University of South Florida
Kareb M. Obremski-Brandon, University of South Florida
Michael D. Coovert, University of South Florida


Recent theoretical approaches to the etiology of eating disorders and body image disturbances have begun to focus on multifactorial models. In the current study, the Tripartite Influence model was examined in a large sample of college females (ages 18–22). This model proposes that three primary core sources of influence—parents, peers and media—contribute to the development of body image and eating disturbances. Additionally, the model suggests that at least two factors mediate the relationship between influences and disturbance—appearance comparison and internalization of media information. In this study, appearance comparison was examined as a mediational link between peer, family and media influence variables and the outcome disturbance measures of eating dysfunction and body image dissatisfaction. Covariance structure modeling (CSM) was used to test the proposed pathways. The results indicated that appearance comparison mediated the effects of family and media influences on body dissatisfaction, which in turn influenced restrictive and bulimic behaviors. In addition, peer influences had a direct influence on restriction. Perfectionism was hypothesized to relate to body dissatisfaction, but was in fact found to influence appearance comparison. The findings were limited by the necessity of several modifications to the originally proposed models, yet offer replication and extension of previous work with appearance comparison and support for further testing of the Tripartite Influence model.