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Authors' Reply

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

A. Stein
Affiliation:
Leopold Muller University Department, Royal Free and University College Medical School, University College London, Royal Free Campus, Rowland Hill Street, London NW3 2PF
H. Woolley
Affiliation:
Leopold Muller University Department, Royal Free and University College Medical School, University College London, Royal Free Campus, Rowland Hill Street, London NW3 2PF
K. McPherson
Affiliation:
School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT
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Abstract

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Copyright © 2000 The Royal College of Psychiatrists 

Dr Morgan makes some interesting points in the light of his own study concerning factors which might influence the nature of the relationship between mothers with eating disorders and their infants. However, the purpose of our paper was to examine the evolution of conflict between mothers with eating disorders and their infants using detailed observations of sequences of interactions. In particular, we wanted to establish whether the way in which mothers and infants responded to different situations during mealtimes influenced development of conflict. We found that whether or not the mothers responded to the infants' cues determined whether or not conflict arose. In addition, the infants' behaviour also contributed to the evolution of conflict in some circumstances. The elucidation of these features of interaction, which was only possible through sequential observations and analyses, offers the potential for intervention irrespective of which background factors influence interaction. In particular, it is critical to help mothers to recognise the positive aspects of their infants' communications and cues during mealtimes in order to facilitate this interaction.

Obviously, we are very interested in the other factors in the mother's history or mental state which might influence the course of these interactions, such as those detailed in the Morgan et al paper cited above. However, in order to carry out the analysis of sequential interactions as we have done, and to determine the relative influence of a variety of other factors on the course of these interactions, a much larger study would be required. This would be valuable but well beyond the scope of our paper.

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