Familial Influences on Disordered Eating in Young Women
Trobert, Heather L.
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Previous research suggests that negative family interactions surrounding dieting behaviors, and body weight/shape preoccupations are critical influences in the development of eating disorder pathology in girls and young women. However, previous research has not investigated all of these influences thoroughly and simultaneously. Consequently, the purpose of the present study was to investigate the influence of multiple familial interactions simultaneously on disordered eating in young women. Young women (N=152) aged 18-25 were recruited through distribution emails to complete online measures that assess these under-investigated familial interactions with daughters about their body weight and shape, as well as measures of body shame, personality, and psychopathology. Hierarchical multiple regression was used to examine the influence of negative family interactions from each family member surrounding body weight and shape above and beyond the influence of risk factors shown previously to be important (i.e., depression, anxiety, and perfectionism). Additionally, body shame was evaluated using a mediation model to further explain the relationship between negative familial interactions and eating disorder symptomatology. Results indicate that while negative familial interactions were associated with an increase in eating disorder symptoms, this increase did not exist significantly over and above the variance accounted for by personality and psychopathology factors. Findings support the hypothesis that when there is more than one parent and/or sibling engaged in negative interactions surrounding daughters' body weight and shape, disordered eating symptoms in daughters were increased. Additionally, maternal modeling of dieting behaviors was significantly related to daughters' disordered eating. While maternal body shame did not significantly predict daughter's body shame, daughter's body shame significantly mediated the relationship between negative maternal interactions and eating disorder symptomatology. Body shame continued to significantly mediate the relationship even when other risk factors (anxiety, depression, perfectionism) were included in a parallel model. Information gained from this investigation has the potential to refine current etiological models, which has implications for early intervention and efficacious treatment of eating disorders.