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Parents and children perceive eating disorders differently

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When it comes to eating disorder behaviors, parents and children aren't seeing things eye-to-eye, new research reports.

A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that adolescents reported more severe eating disorder thoughts and beliefs than their parents did – a fact that should concern families struggling with a member who has anorexia, bulimia or other disordered eating habits.

HOPE Project

The research used data from the Helping to Outline Pediatric Eating Disorders (HOPE) Project. A team led by Dr. Hunna Watson, Senior Research Psychologist at the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children Eating Disorders Program, found that while adolescents reported more concern about eating disorder behaviors than their parents did, children reported fewer of these types of thoughts or behaviors than their parents.

Parents and youth were interviewed separately and asked about behavioral and cognitive symptoms of eating disorders, like self-induced vomiting, binge eating or excessive concern about weight.

Better treatment approaches needed

Based on the findings of the study, Watson said that eating disorder treatment should include a comprehensive assessment of both children and parental beliefs, so as to engage the whole family in a treatment process that will work.

"Children may not have insight into their illness and are yet to develop key cognitions such as body dissatisfaction, which tends to onset from puberty," Watson said.

Additionally, treatment services should include parental education about symptoms to watch for, she concluded.

Source: Medical Xpress