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Over-Involved Mothers Tied to Women's Poor Eating, Body Attitudes, Study Says

Surveys also suggested connection to weak social skills in daughters

FRIDAY, Sept. 27 (HealthDay News) -- 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 online Sept. 18 in the journal Communication Monographs.

"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.

More information

The Nemours Foundation offers parenting tips.

SOURCE: Communication Monographs, news release, September 2013

Copyright © 2013 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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