Examination of pathways by which parental attachment and secondary attachment strategies predict disordered eating attitudes and behaviours
Gomes, Lezlie C.
DisciplinePsychology : Clinical
Attachment behaviour system and the secure base relationship
Attachment and regulation of emotion
Attachment and psychopathology
Disordered eating as attachment avoidance
Disordered eating and parental attachment
Disordered eating attitudes and behaviours
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Research has established a connection between insecure attachment and disordered eating (O’Kearney, 1996; O’Shaughnessy & Dallos, 2009; Ward et al., 2000). Over three studies, the current research examined the relationship between attachment and disordered eating attitudes and behaviours (DEABs) in the context of control theory analysis (Kobak, Cole, Ferenz-Gillies, Fleming and Gamble, 1993). This theory was developed to help understand the relationship between internal working models and the development of attachment strategies to regulate emotion. The purpose of Study 1 was to investigate the processes by which parental attachment and the secondary attachment strategies proposed by Kobak et al. are associated with DEABs. Participants included 281 female high school and university students (M = 19.29 years). Multiple mediation models were tested using bootstrapping methods outlined by Preacher and Hayes (2008). Results suggested that the relationship between both anxious (hyperactivated) and avoidant (deactivated) attachment strategies and DEABs were significantly mediated by Negative Affect, self-esteem, and Perfectionistic Self-Promotion. As Avoidant and Anxious Attachment were highly correlated, a composite variable, Overall Insecure Attachment was created. The relationship between Overall Insecure Attachment and DEABs was similarly mediated. Multiple regression analyses revealed that feelings of alienation from both mothers and fathers significantly predicted Avoidant, Anxious, and Overall Insecure Attachment. Results suggested that the development of DEABs may not be associated with one type of secondary attachment strategy, but rather insecure attachment in general. Further, parental attachment relationships predicted insecure attachment strategies.