Parental feeding practices and the relationship with parents in female adolescents and young women adults with eating disorders
Objective: Perceived parental influence on diet in early adolescence in the context of the parental relationship had previously not been studied in a clinical sample. The aim of this study was to investigate a possible association between eating disorders and characteristics of the relationship with parents and the parental feeding practices in early adolescence. Methods: 21 female adolescents and young adults with an eating disorder (ED) – bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa – and 22 females without eating disorder (healthy control; HC), aged between 16 and 26, were assessed via self-report questionnaires for problematic eating behaviour, relationship with parents, perceptions of parent’s feeding practices at the age of 10 – 13 years and personality. Statistical evaluation was performed by means of group comparisons, effect sizes, regression analyses and mediator analyses. Results: Adolescent and young adult females with ED reported more fears/overprotection and rejection/neglect by their mothers and less self-responsibility in terms of eating behaviour during adolescence than did the HC. The relationship with the fathers did not differ significantly. Females who perceived more cohesion, rejection/neglect and fears/overprotection by the mother were more likely to suffer from an ED. Rejection/neglect by both parents were associated with less self-acceptance of the young females with even stronger effect sizes for the fathers than the mothers. Harm prevention in the young females was a partial mediator between fears/overprotection and the drive for thinness. Conclusions: The parental relationship is partly reflected in the self-acceptance and self-responsibility in eating of the adolescent and young females, both of them are particularly affected in EDs. Stressors in the parent-child relationship should be targeted in treatment of eating disorders. Nutritional counselling for parents might be useful in early adolescence.