Q & A: Family Dynamics and Eating Disorders

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
May/June 2008 Volume 19, Number 3
©2008 Gürze Books

Q: I know that people often suggest that family dynamics contributes to healthy or unhealthy eating patterns in adolescents, but is there really any good data to support this contention? (B.T., Atlanta)

A: Several lines of research suggest that having family meals, parental attentiveness to what and how their adolescents eat, and how well the family gets along may all positively influence healthy eating habits in adolescents. Most recently, a large national study of 2,379 girls followed from ages 919 who participated in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study found that family cohesion, characterized by emotional bonding, supportiveness, clear family boundaries, and spending time together was strongly correlated with several eating behaviors that have been shown to contribute to better health. Family cohesion was significantly associated with less intake of soft drinks and higher rates of breakfast consumption. Ingestion of milk, fruits, and vegetables was predicted by family cohesion at the trend level (Franko et al, Int J Eat Disord 2008; 41:360). In all, this area of research suggests that parental attention to adolescent eating has clear and beneficial results.

— J.Y.

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