Over-Involved Moms Linked To Kids With Eating Disorders

First, it was autism.  Now it's eating disorders.  A new study has found that "young women are more likely to have disordered eating attitudes when their mothers often communicate criticism and are over-involved."

Thanks a lot.

Newswise.com quotes Analisa Arroyo, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA, who said that young adult females whose mothers frequently engaged in “family expressed emotion,” which she explained as “an extraordinarily harmful pattern of criticism, over-involvement, excessive attention, and emotional reactivity that is usually communicated by parents toward their children,” tended to have poorer social and relationship skills."

And those poor social and relationship skills were related to the daughters’ higher levels of psychological distress and disordered eating attitudes.

What kind of disordered eating attitudes?  Anorexia. Bulimia. Binge-eating. Arroyo commented that these attitudes focus around "body dissatisfaction and unhealthy weight control beliefs and practice."

Even though family dynamics such as conflict and control can affect young girls, the study found unequivocally that "it was the mother’s 'hyper-involved and overtly critical' pattern of expressed emotion" that led to what she calls decreased "social competence," and from there, indirectly linked to "psychological distress and disordered eating attitudes."

“It appears that this corrosive form of family communication is particularly damaging to individuals’ sense of self and well-being, as it seems to promote a struggle for control and self-enhancement,” she told newswise.com. “We believe that disordered eating can develop as a compensatory technique for dealing with social incompetence and negative emotions.”

So what does all this scientific gobbledygook mean?  That if you're too critical of your daughter, expecting her to excel at everything she does and have a lot of friends, keep to a perfect size 2, and have a boyfriend who's a star athlete, and good at the books, too, she may have a meltdown.

But I have to say that I have yet to meet a mother who does all this.  Sure, we all want the best for our kids and would love the scenario described above. But not if we have to impose strict controls and demands on our girls to achieve it.

My mother was not very involved in my life, and that was not a good thing for me.  Certainly you don't want a mom who's in your business and personal life, checking your social media sites, listening in on your cell calls, but I believe you can strike a balance between being too much there and not there at all.

I'll admit I know parents who won't allow children to watch TV during the week (not in this house, unfortunately), or start their homework the minute they get home, no hanging out with friends during the week, and school vacations spent studying and learning new skills.  But while some of these may seem ordered and controlling, they don't interfere with a child's sense of self.  That's where the criticism and hyper-involvement comes in.

Arroyo says it all has to do with a child's self-concept and social skills.  She believes that if a child can develop good social skills, that will protect the child from destructive eating habits. Not sure I see the connection but she's the scientist.  


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