The Children's Eating Attitudes Test (ChEAT) is a self-report questionnaire that is conventionally summarized with a single score to identify "problematic" eating attitudes, masking informative variability in different eating attitude domains. This study evaluated the empirical support for single- versus multifactor models of the ChEAT. For validation, we compared how well the single- versus multifactor-based scores predicted body mass index (BMI).
Using data from 13,674 participants of the 11.5 year-follow-up of the Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial (PROBIT) in the Republic of Belarus, we conducted confirmatory factor analysis to evaluate the performance of 3- and 5-factor models, which were based on past studies, to a single-factor model representing the conventional summary of the ChEAT. We used cross-validated linear regression models and the reduction in mean squared error (MSE) to compare the prediction of BMI at 11.5 and 16 years by the conventional and confirmed factor-based ChEAT scores.
The 5-factor model, based on 14 of the original 26 ChEAT items, had good fit to the data whereas the 3- and single-factor models did not. The MSE for concurrent (11.5 years) BMI regressed on the 5-factor ChEAT summary was 35% lower than that of the single-score models, which reduced the MSE from the null model by only 1%-5%. The MSE for BMI at 16 years was 20% lower.
We found that a parsimonious 5-factor model of the ChEAT explained the data collected from healthy Belarusian children better than the conventional summary score and thus provides a more discriminating measure of eating attitudes.