Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology


Clinical Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, v, 113 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Julia M Hormes

Committee Members

Drew A Anderson, Mitch Earleywine, C. Alix Timko


Cravings, Gestational Weight Gain, Pregnancy, Pregnant women, Compulsive eating, Food habits, Self-control

Subject Categories



More than half of all pregnancies result in excess gestational weight gain (GWG), which is one of the most common high-risk obstetric conditions and is associated with health complications in the mother and the fetus. We have conceptualized excess GWG within the Elaboration Intrusion framework and developed studies to test this theory and identify predictors of excess GWG. These studies sought to 1) establish the appropriateness of existing measures related to the constructs of the EI Theory, 2) establish a causal effect of food craving on excess GWG, 3) examine the role of knowledge as a predictor in excess GWG, and 4) explore the type, frequency, and impact of cravings during the post-partum. Pregnant women were recruited from a local academic medical center (n = 84) and online (n = 184). A comparison convenience sample was recruited from a large Northeastern University (n = 626) for use in Study 3. Pregnant women completed the Dutch Eating Behavior Questionnaire (DEBQ), a measure assessing emotional eating, external eating, and restrained eating, the Food Craving Inventory (FCI), which quantifies “frequency” of cravings for specific foods and the likelihood of “giving in” to these cravings, and the Food Cravings Questionnaire-Trait (FCQ-T), a measure of general food craving. We did not replicate the three-factor structure of the FCI or the four-factor structure of the DEBQ in our sample. We did find that specific food cravings accounted for 46.7% of the variance in excess GWG in our full sample and 48.1% of the variance in those that reported a pre-pregnancy BMI in the overweight/obese range. The FCQ-T accounted for 49.9% and 76.0% of the variance in these samples, respectively. While our pregnant sample demonstrated more knowledge regarding appropriate weight gain and caloric intake compared to our convenience sample, their answers were significantly different from published guidelines and were not associated with excess GWG. We also demonstrated stability of craving type and frequency throughout pregnancy and into the post-partum; however, a relationship between post-partum cravings and excess weight retention was not indicated. Findings have important implications for treatment development targeting cravings in pregnancy and the post-partum.

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