Young women with critical,
over-involved mothers are more likely to have disordered eating attitudes and
poor social skills, according to a new study.
Disordered eating attitudes
involve "body dissatisfaction and unhealthy weight control beliefs and
practice," the researchers explained. These attitudes are common among
women in the United States, but do not always cause eating disorders.
The study included 286
female university students, average age 21, their mothers, and an adult
sibling, all of whom individually filled out online questionnaires.
While family dynamics, such
as conflict and control, can affect children's emotional and social well-being,
neither of these factors predicted daughters having poor social skills and
disordered eating attitudes.
But having a mother who was
overly involved and highly critical was directly related to such problems in
daughters, according to the study published in the journal Communication
"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," study lead author Analisa Arroyo, an assistant
professor of communication at the University of Georgia in Athens, said in a
journal news release.
"We believe that
disordered eating can develop as a compensatory technique for dealing with
social incompetence and negative emotions," she added.
Parents are the main
influences in the development of their children's self-concept and social
skills, the researchers pointed out. If parents focus on "healthy parent-child
relationships and teaching their children effective communication skills, such
social competence may serve as a protective factor in the development of
psychological distress and disordered eating attitudes," they concluded.
The Nemours Foundation
offers parenting tips.