Date of Award:

2001

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Psychology

Advisor/Chair:

David M. Stein

Abstract

The present study examined whether there was a relationship between daughters' eating disorder symptomology and maternal food control and health-conscious eating attitudes. Eighty-eight females with a continuum of eating disorder behaviors (DSM-IV eating disorders through nondieters) and 74 of their mothers participated. Participants completed the Anorexia Bulimia Inventory, two subscales from the Eating Disorder Inventory, the Three Factor Eating Questionnaire , the Family Environment Scale, the Maternal Food Control and Meal Preparation Scale, and the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale.

Results indicated that, in general, daughters' reported eating disorder symptomology and perceived familial control were related. Some of the more specific maternal food control variables perceived by daughters were also related to their reported symptomology. Yet, maternal reports on these same variables tended not to correspond to daughters' reported symptomology. Specifically, regression analyses indicated that a combination of perceived high familial control, perceived low maternal concern with healthy meal preparation and restriction, and perceived high maternal anxiety regarding healthy eating predicted higher levels of reported anorexic symptomology. Similar variables predicted reported bulimic symptomology, but only increased general familial control predicted symptoms characteristic of both disorders.

Analyses also revealed that daughters' eating disorder symptomology tended to be inversely related to responding in a socially desirable manner. Perceptual differences were noted and discussed between mothers' and daughters' reports of familial control. Lastly, mothers' report of food control was not correlated with reported familial control.

This study was the first to examine the more specific maternal control issues, maternal health-conscious attitudes, and their relationship to daughters' maladaptive eating behaviors. The results of the present study are consistent with the speculation that a combination of daughters' perception of high familial control, high maternal anxieties about children's eating practices, and low maternal concern with healthy meal preparation might contribute to the development or maintenance of anorexic and bulimic symptomology. Finally, limitations were discussed and recommendations were made for future research.

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