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Family characteristics of anorexic, bulimic, psychiatric control, and nonpsychiatric control female adolescents Taylor, Lori Anne


The aim of the present study was to investigate the characteristics and interaction patterns in the families of adolescent eating—disordered patients. Four groups of female adolescents and their mothers (restrictive anorexic, bulimic type, psychiatric control, and nonpsychiatric control) were assessed on a number of self-report instruments: The Family Environment Scale, Dyadic Adjustment Scale, Work and Family Orientation Questionnaire, Sex Role Ideology Scale, Food Fitness and Looks Questionnaire, and Body Esteem Scale. Support was found for the hypothesis that the families of bulimic type and psychiatric control subjects are characterized as more dysfunctional than the families of restrictive anorexic and nonpsychiatric control subjects. In particular, restrictive anorexic and nonpsychiatric control mothers and daughters characterized their families as more cohesive than did bulimic type and psychiatric control mothers and daughters. No differences were found amongst the four groups on expressiveness, conflict, independence, organization, control, or marital adjustment. These family interaction data were found to vary with the adolescent’s level of depression, general psychiatric distress, and impulsivity, but only for daughters, not for mothers. Little support was found for the hypothesis that restrictive anorexic and bulimic type mothers and daughters are characterized as higher in achievement orientation, traditional sex role ideology, and weight and appearance orientation than psychiatric control mothers and daughters. There were no group differences with respect to individual or family achievement orientation; however, restrictive anorexic and nonpsychiatric control daughters did have higher school grades than psychiatric control daughters. No differences in sex role ideology were found amongst the groups. Restrictive anorexic and bulimic type daughters, but not mothers, ascribed greater importance to weight and had more negative attitudes toward their own weight than psychiatric and nonpsychiatric control daughters. No group differences were found for mothers or daughters with respect to attitude toward one’s own attractiveness or importance ascribed to appearance or fitness. Potential explanations for lack of congruence with the theoretical literature are advanced, and the possible specificity of family pseudocohesiveness and problem denial to eating disorders is discussed.

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