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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Women's recovery in the eating disorders : exploring the role of perceived mutuality in close relationships and social support satisfaction Hughes-Jones, Megan


Despite significant research attesting to the importance of interpersonal relationships and social support to recovery from an eating disorder, little is known about the relational qualities associated with support satisfaction. Furthermore, the extent to which interpersonal relationships and support satisfaction are associated with recovery, specifically, eating disorder symptom severity and readiness to make changes, remains unanswered in the literature. Relational/Cultural Theory (RCT) emphasizes the importance of relationships to women’s well-being and mental health. RCT posits that chronic disconnection in one’s relationships may result in mental distress, including the development of an eating disorder. Consistent with this perspective on the etiology of an eating disorder, RCT suggests that recovery from an eating disorder may occur within the context of mutual relationships. The current study employed RCT as a framework to explore associations among perceived mutuality in a close relationship, social support satisfaction, eating disorder and psychiatric symptomatology, and readiness for change in a clinical sample (N = 31) of adult women (> 18 years) struggling with an eating disorder. The study analyzed cross-sectional data collected from the St. Paul’s Hospital Eating Disorders Program, in Vancouver, BC, Canada. As per RCT, it was hypothesized that perceived mutuality in a close relationship and social support satisfaction would be significantly related, and that these two psychosocial variables would be associated with lower eating disorder symptoms and higher readiness for change. Correlational analyses were employed to address the study’s research question. Results did not support any of the predicted relationships. Due to the unexpected primary findings, several exploratory post-hoc analyses were conducted. These follow-up analyses extended the study’s investigation of perceived mutuality, social support satisfaction, and eating disorder and psychiatric symptomatology. Results suggest that certain elements of mutuality in a close relationship may be particularly important to support satisfaction. Furthermore, results offered some support for a relationship between perceived mutuality and attitudinal dimensions characteristic of the eating disorders. Overall, however, study findings were inconsistent with hypotheses based on RCT, and thus, question its application as a model within which to understand recovery from an eating disorder for adult women in a clinical context.

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