New study links binge eating to strained mother-daughter relationships

March 6, 2013

Dalhousie researchers link binge eating among university-aged women with strained mother-daughter relationships in a recent study published in the journal Eating Behaviors.

is a behaviour that involves eating a large amount of food in a short period of time. Binging often induces along with . It's associated with negative outcomes such as weight gain, weight-related illnesses, and poor self-image. Prior research on binge eating focused on the individual binge eater. This new study illuminates the impact interpersonal relationships have on individuals who are binging on food.

Researchers studied 218 mother-daughter pairs. The daughters, all in university, were assessed for socially prescribed perfectionism: when a person perceives that others have high expectations of them and expect them to be perfect. The mothers were assessed for : when a person is demanding and controlling of others. This was done using existing assessment mechanisms.

Findings suggest that young women who feel they need to be perfect and are exposed to pressures can develop feelings of sadness. Binge eating becomes a short-term coping mechanism during these times of unhappiness. The research can have clinical implications on the assessment and treatment of individuals who binge eat. Academics, clinicians, counsellors and families will have a better understanding of external factors that can lead to binge eating and other disordered eating behaviours.

"We can't just rely on an individual to change, we have to address the wider context within which their problem is occurring. In light of our research, it may be unfair to locate this problem within the mother or the daughter. It's occurring in the transaction between them." – Dr. Simon Sherry, co-author, associate professor, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.

The paper is titled "Testing the Perfectionism Model of Binge Eating in Mother-Daughter Dyads: A Mixed Longitudinal and Daily Diary Study."

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