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Bonding between Parents and Children not a Factor for Individuals Suffering from Anorexia

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According to a 9 year follow-up study, young women previously diagnosed with anorexia do not consider their parent's ability to bond with them as a factor in the development and course of their eating disorder.

The study which is available through the early online edition of the July 12th, 2012 European Eating Disorders Review, focused on various factors that may have influenced the women's anorexia, including family relationships, and the impact of their eating disorder on siblings.

The study was led by Inger Halvorsen and colleagues from Oslo University Hospital in Norway.

Parents of anorexics perceived to be no more controlling or less caring

46 young women who were former patients treated for anorexia and 21 siblings participated in the study. The mean age of the participants who had been treated for an eating disorder was assessed to be 23 at the time of the study. Their results were measured against those of non-clinical control groups.

The researchers were interested in determining the extent to which the bonding behavior of the anorexic women's parents with their children was viewed in hindsight to have affected the family.

Both groups were given questionnaires; one questionnaire involved completing the Parental Bonding Inventory (PBI) in which the participants were asked questions regarding how they perceived their parents had responded to the challenges of raising a child with anorexia. The other questionnaire involved the impact of an illness such as anorexia during an acute phase.

The researchers were interested to discover that in most cases, the parents of anorexics were perceived to be no more controlling or less caring than parents of participants in the control groups.

Valuable life experience

Although both former patients and siblings admitted that the eating disorder had caused concern and sometimes resulted in conflict, they also suggested that the challenge of coping with anorexia provided them with valuable life experience.

Parents that were more successful at bonding with their children and perceived to have offered better care, produced children with higher levels of adaptive functioning and decreased incidence of psychological internalizing. Siblings of individuals with anorexia also demonstrated that they had unique needs and perspectives regarding the eating disorder.

Source: European Eating Disorders Review