Eating Disorders and the Family Environment
Ashley Gallagher (210331007) SWOK 2035 Professor Lackstrom Section A - Fall Term Final Essay December 1st, 2012
Eating disorders are considered to be psychosomatic illnesses that can impair both overall health and psychosocial functioning of individuals, primarily in females although the occurrence of eating disorders in males is becoming more frequent. Eating disorders and the analysis of family relationships and interactions is a popular topic. Many studies have viewed how the family environment affects the individual with disordered eating habits, although it is essential to also analyze specific relationships between specific family members and the individual with the eating disorder within the family. Family dynamics are complicated to grasp; currently the modern family varies across a diverse scope of differences incorporating the popular occurrence of blended families and many other issues that can arise in present day society. Factor analysis is frequently used to view transactional patterns within the family environment involving an eating disorder. An increased level of neuroticism in an appearance based family environment is suggested to contribute to the occurrence of diet and weight issues developing in an eating disordered individual (Shuster, B 1999). There are a variety of theories and treatment options that are commonly used when attempting to explain the family dynamics involving the psychosomatic illness and prevalence of eating disorders. These include Marcus and Weiner’s six psychosocial transactional patterns, Stafford and Dainton’s systems theory approach, Minuchin et al. five familial traits within a psychosomatic family, and four transactional patterns that provide analysis between relationships within the family environment. The main treatment options for the psychosomatic family environment include traditional family therapy, structural family therapy, strategic family therapy, Milan family therapy, narrative family therapy, marital therapy and family based treatment methods.
There are a variety of reasons why a child may develop an eating disorder based on the family environment theorists Marcus and Weiner developed six psychosocial transactional patterns that can be used to explain why children develop eating disorders based on their family environment. There are six types of psychosocial transactional patterns that work in combination with each other to form the four transactional patterns within the family environment; these are the attractive pattern, attention-centering pattern, negativistic, distracting, childlike, and self-punishing patterns (Marcus & Weiner, 1989). The attractive pattern involves an immense focus on appearance and socially desirable behavior. Verbal interactions tend to focus on the social group, clothing, social activities, and overall appearance of family members. These factors are compared to neighbors and other acquaintances developing a strong dependence on psychical attributes (Marcus & Weiner, 1989). The attention-centering pattern is when the child feels as though he or she is neglected from their parents and behaves in ways such as the development of an eating disorder as a method to attract attention. The negativistic pattern is a way in which the child rebels against his or her parents and breaks any established household rules. The distracting pattern occurs in a child when marital issues are apparent and the child using an eating disorder as a method to distract parents from their unhappiness with each other by attempting to change focus on to the child’s issue. The childlike pattern views both parents and child interacting in a way that will maintain a child’s dependence on their parents ultimately restricting attempts at achieving independence. The last transactional pattern developed by Marcus and Weiner is the selfpunishing pattern that can develop in families that have strict moral and ethical codes...
References: Lock, James D & le Grange, Daniel,. “Family Treatment of Eating Disorders” from Clinical Manual of Eating Disorders, Joel Yager & Pauline S. Powers. Ed(s)., American Psychiatric Publishing, Incorporated, 2007, 149-170. Marcus, D. & Weiner, M (1989). Anorexia nervosa re-conceptualized from a psychosocial transactional perspective: American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 59(3). 346354. Minuchin, S., Rosman, B.L., Baker, L. (1978). Psychosomatic Families – Anorexia Nervosa in Context. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. Shuster, B. Family interactional patterns in the risk for disordered eating, 1999. Stafford, L. & Dainton, M. (1995). Parent-child communication within the family. In Thomas J. Socha and Glen H. Stamp (Eds), Parents, Children and Communication: Forntiers of Theory and Research (pp. 3-21). New Jersey, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, INC. Van den Broucke S, Vandereycken W, Norre J,. Eating Disorders and Marital Relationships. New York, Routledge, 1997.
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