Investigation of Eating Disorder Risk and Body Image Dissatisfaction among Female Competitive Cheerleaders

Allison B. Smith, Jennifer L. Gay, Eva V. Monsma, Shawn M. Arent, Mark A. Sarzynski, Dawn M. Emerson, Toni M. Torres-Mcgehee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Social agents associated with cheerleading environments are increasingly linked to body image dissatisfaction (BID) and eating disorders (ED). This study examined ED risk across team type, squad type, and position. An additional purpose determined BID in clothing type (daily clothing, midriff uniform, and full uniform), and meta-perceptions from the perspective of peers (MP peers), parents (MP parents), and coaches (MP coaches). Female cheerleaders (n = 268) completed an online survey which included demographics, the Eating Attitudes Test-26, and pathogenic behavior questions. Body image perceptions were assessed by using the Sex-Specific Figural Stimuli Silhouettes. Overall, 34.4% of cheerleaders (n = 268; mean age: 17.9 ± 2.7 years) exhibited an ED risk. Compared to All-Star cheerleaders, college cheerleaders demonstrated significant higher ED risk (p = 0.021), dieting subscale scores (p = 0.045), and laxative, diet pill, and diuretic use (p = 0.008). Co-ed teams compared to all-girl teams revealed higher means for the total EAT-26 (p = 0.018) and oral control subscale (p = 0.002). The BID in clothing type revealed that cheerleaders wanted to be the smallest in the midriff option (p < 0.0001, η2 = 0.332). The BID from meta-perception revealed that cheerleaders felt that their coaches wanted them to be the smallest (p < 0.001, η2 = 0.106). Cheerleaders are at risk for EDs and BID at any level. Regarding the midriff uniform, MP from the perspective of coaches showed the greatest difference between perceived and desired body image.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2196
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • Aesthetic
  • Athletes
  • Meta-perceptions
  • Pathogenic behaviors
  • Perceptions


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