Essay Family Structure in Eating Disorders

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Family Structure in Eating Disorders



We are all genetically and socially affected by our families. Families serve as the matrix of our identity. It is through interactions within the family that we develop a sense of who we are and how we fit in (Minuchin, Rosman & Baker, 1978). Parents serve as role models, providing examples for attitudes, coping skills, and eating habits, as well as setting standards for perfection, ambition and acceptance (Hall & Cohn, 1992). Many researchers claim that family dynamics are at the root of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa. The role of dysfunctional family interactions in the pathogenesis of anorexia nervosa has been given a prominent place in the research field. Evidence for a specific
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In a review article on anorexia and family issues, Yager describes how anecdotal reports of child-parent interactions and personality styles of parents show a great deal of variability. The relationships between mothers and daughters are reported by some to be rejecting and by others to be ambivalent or overinvolved. Although these mother-child interactions are contradictory, several general themes are present (Blinder, Chaitin & Goldstein, 1988). Anorexic mothers tend to focus all of their attention on the well-being of their children (Minuchin, Rosman & Baker, 1978). They set high expectations and foster ambitions for external achievement. The mothers of anorexics may be involved socially, they usually lack intimate friends. In many cases, the daughter becomes the mother's confidant. This overinvolvement creates separation difficulty later in life (Blinder, Chaitin & Goldstein, 1988). A great amount of variability exists in father-daughter dyads as well. Some anorexic fathers have been described as kind and affectionate, while others have been described as passive and ineffectual. These fathers are often peripheral to the family (Blinder, Chaitin & Goldstein, 1988).

Linear and systems models of anorexia nervosa have been postulated to explain the development and treatment of this disorder. Systems concepts concerning anorexia nervosa have been most clearly outlined by Minuchin et al.(Minuchin, Rosman…

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