Essay on Childhood Sexual Abuse and Eating Disorders

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Childhood Sexual Abuse and Eating Disorders

Recently, a great amount of psychological literature has focused on finding biological and genetic causes of mental illnesses and disorders, including eating disorders. However, according to recent twin studies, the heritability component of eating disorders may only account for 0% to 70% of the variance (Fairburn, Cowen, & Harrison, 1999). The leaves an ample amount of room for speculation of possible environmental risk factors for eating disorders. In this paper, I wish to examine one possible environmental risk that has received attention since the mid-80’s. Since that time, researchers have searched to determine the relationship between childhood sexual abuse, or trauma in
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For example, in a study of Japanese women, controls were MORE likely to have experienced minor sexual abuse and the authors conclude, “an abuse history is not essential or prerequisite to developing eating disorders.” (Nagata, Kiriike, Iketani, Kawarada, & Tanaka, 1999). Also, several other studies, including one by Conners and Morse (1993) found that the rates of having experienced abuse were no greater in eating disordered patients than in the general population. More studies suggest that the apparent correlations may be due to the fact that both childhood sexual abuse and eating disturbances are common in the female population (Conners & Morse, 1993; Everill & Waller, 1995; Pope & Hudson, 1992). As observed in a paper by Dansky, Brewerton, Kilpatrick, and O’Neil (1997), authors of three recent studies have concluded that childhood sexual abuse was “not a significant risk factor in the development of bulimia nervosa” (Kinzl, Traweger, Guenther, & Biebel, 1994; Pope, Mangweith, Negrao, Hudson, & Cordas, 1994; Rorty, Yager, & Rossotto, 1994). Overall, many researchers have been unable to conclude, from current data, that childhood sexual abuse is a risk factor, or even distinctively related to eating disorders (Pope & Hudson, 1992).

It must be mentioned however, that these studies include methodological limitations such as dependence on retrospection
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