The Use of an Observational Measure to Examine Family Characteristics in Children and Adolescents with Eating Disorders

Date

2005-08-11

Authors

Housson, Wells Gibbons

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Abstract

This study evaluated families who had a child diagnosed with an eating disorder compared to those with a child diagnosed with depression. Both groups were assessed at entry to a treatment regime: the ED group was assessed upon admission to inpatient treatment for an eating disorder, and the MDD group was assessed at admission to a research study evaluating the use of psychotropic medication and therapy for children with MDD. The groups were compared on global family functioning as well as on specific aspects of family functioning. While the ED and MDD sample were similar in terms of ethnic breakdown, they did differ significantly in terms of age and gender, with the ED group being significantly older and having a significantly greater number of females than males. In this study, the MDD group and the ED group did not differ significantly in terms of global family competence on an observational measure of family competence, nor did they differ in terms of conflict or closeness. The inappropriate parent-child coalition subscale distinguished ED from MDD, with the ED families scoring in the more dysfunctional range on this subscale. Age was a significant predictor of this construct, such that the older the child, the less healthy the score on this subscale. Conflict did not distinguish the groups; however, severity of illness and gender (female) were significant predictors of healthier scores on the conflict subscale for the ED group. There were no significant predictors of conflict for the MDD group. The relationship between child report and rater observation of family functioning was assessed and found to be significant, such that there was a significant correlation between child self-report of overall family competence (Self-report Family Inventory) and rater observation (TCFES). The relationship between mother and child self-report of family functioning was also found to be significant, such that mothers and children in this study rated their families in a similar fashion. The relationship between maternal eating disordered cognitions and family functioning was not significant, nor was the relationship between mother and child report of eating disordered cognitions.

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