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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A narrative examination of the governing scripts in the dreams and early recollections of women with eating disorders Goldswain, Susan M.


The purpose of this study was to examine the governing scripts in the lives of women with eating disorders via narrative analysis. Interviews were conducted with 5 women with eating disorders (EDs), whose ages ranged from 27 years to 36 years. An average of two interviews per participant took place, with each interview being recorded and transcribed. The interviews centred around early recollections (ERs) and dream reports, which were gathered in the context of their life-stories. The participants were recruited from private counselling practices, psychiatric practices, and family practices, and were considered suitable for the study if they expressed an interest in participating in the study, and their attending therapist or doctor was satisfied they fit the DSM-1V (APA, 1994) criteria for an eating disorder. Tomkins' (1979, 1987, 1991) script theory provided the theoretical underpinnings to the research, with Carlson's (1981, 1986) script-theoretic analysis as the primary methodological tool. Alexander's (1988) method of accessing scripts via principal identifiers of salience was used in conjunction with script-theoretic analysis when applicable. The ERs were examined for evidence of the nuclear scene, followed by analysis of the life-stories and dream stories for magnifications of the nuclear scene in the form of analogs and anti-analogs. The results showed the following commonalities: a) that a story of perceived loss of the parent or parental figure was at the heart of each nuclear scene, with the script threading through each woman's life as a theme of "longing for mother" or "a quest for love"; b) that the nuclear script was profoundly reactivated at the time of the development of each participant's ED; c) a family "no talk" rule about negative feelings and traumatic events; d) participants had difficult relationships with their mothers; e) a perception of home as unsafe, manifested in a recurring nightmare from childhood; f) participants responded to stress in their homes by adopting the personality of the "perfect girl" according to family values; g) body-image/self-image disturbances predated the eating disorder; and h) that traditional gender-roles and attitudes towards women were present in all the families in varying ways. More narrative research of the lives of women with EDs is needed to confirm and support these findings.

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