Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
September/October 2006 Volume 17, Number 5
©2006 Gürze Books
The father-daughter relationship and its impact upon eating disorders is still largely unexplored territory in eating disorders research. At the recent International Conference on Eating Disorders in Barcelona, Dr. Maya Wolff and co-workers at Bar Ilan University and Shalvata Medical Health Center, Israel, added details of their recent study of fathers and women with eating disorders.
The authors assessed the father-daughter relationships of 136 women, specifically looking at attachment, parental bonding, and internal father representation. Three groups were studied: subjects with DSM-IV criteria for eating disorders, and two control groups, one with depression and anxiety (comorbid for eating disorders, PC) and a normal control group (NC).
A complex relationship
Overall, fathers of daughters with eating disorders emerged as a complex mixture of frequently distant, sometimes punitive, but also overprotective parents. All three groups of women differed in their abilities to have emotional investment and in moral standards.
Women with eating disorders had more difficulty bonding and attaching with their fathers, compared with women in both control groups. Women in the eating disorders group and PC group perceived their fathers as more distant and less caring than did women in the NC group.
Fathers of women with eating disorders and those in the PC group were also reported to be less benevolent and more punitive than were fathers of women in the NC group. Fathers of women with eating disorders and those in the PC group were also viewed as less affectionate than fathers of women in the NC group. At the same time, fathers of women with eating disorders were rated as the most overprotective of all three groups.
The researchers report that they are currently studying the effects of the father-daughter relationship on eating disorder prognosis.