Teasing By Family Members Takes a Toll

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
May/June 2003 Volume 14, Number 3
©2003 Gürze Books

When family members tease a girl about her appearance, it can affect her body dissatisfaction, depression, and self-esteem. Teasing by family members has also been linked to the development of restrictive eating, according to eating disorders researchers at the University of Minnesota and the University of South Florida.

Helene Keery and colleagues reported at the recent Academy for Eating Disorders meeting in Denver that paternal teasing was a significant predictor of thin-ideal internalization, social comparison, body dissatisfaction, depression, self-esteem and restrictive and bulimic eating behaviors.

Maternal teasing was a significant predictor of restriction. Teasing by at least one brother or sister led to significantly higher levels of internalization, comparison, body dissatisfaction, restriction, bulimic behaviors, and depression and to significantly lower levels of self-esteem than among girls who weren’t teased by one or more siblings.

The study included 325 girls 11 to 14 years of age, 85% of whom were Caucasian. Eighteen percent of the girls reported that their fathers teased them about their appearance; 12% reported that their mothers teased them about their looks, and 28% with older brothers were teased about their looks. At least 20% of the girls reported that their younger brothers or younger sisters said or did things to make them feel bad about their appearance.

The researchers noted that the results have implications for treatment and prevention of eating disorders, and can also help parents better understand the harmful impact of negative teasing within the family.

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