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Influence of psychiatric disorder on the controlling behaviour of mothers with 1-year-old infants: A study of women with maternal eating disorder, postnatal depression and a healthy comparison group

  • Alan Stein (a1), Helen Woolley (a1), Lynne Murray (a2), Peter Cooper (a2), Sandra Cooper (a3), Fiona Noble (a4), Nicky Affonso (a4) and Christopher G. Fairburn (a5)...
Abstract
Background

Certain styles of parental controlling behaviour influence child development. Work with mothers with eating disorders suggests that they may be particularly controlling of their infants.

Aims

To examine the nature and specificity of maternal controlling behaviour in mothers with eating disorders compared with mothers who had experienced postnatal depression and a healthy comparison group.

Method

Mothers with eating disorders (n=34), postnatal depression (n=39) and a healthy comparison group (n=61) and their 12-month-old infants were observed during play and mealtimes, and blind ratings made of verbal and non-verbal control exerted by the mother.

Results

Mothers in the eating disorder group used more verbal control, especially strong control. There were no differences between the groups on gentle verbal control and physical contact. Maternal dietary restraint was the one feature of eating disorder psychopathology associated with the use of verbal control. Marital criticism was also associated with the extent of verbal controlling behaviour.

Conclusions

Aspects of maternal control of infants were found to be specific to maternal eating disorder psychopathology.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Professor Alan Stein, Leopold Muller Centre for Child and Family Mental Health, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Royal Free and University College Medical School, Royal Free Site, Rowland Hill Street, London NW3 2PF, UK. Fax: +44 (0) 20 7447 3789; e-mail: Astein@tavi-port.org
Footnotes
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See editorial, pp. 93–94, this issue.

Declaration of interest

The study was funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Footnotes
References
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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Influence of psychiatric disorder on the controlling behaviour of mothers with 1-year-old infants: A study of women with maternal eating disorder, postnatal depression and a healthy comparison group

  • Alan Stein (a1), Helen Woolley (a1), Lynne Murray (a2), Peter Cooper (a2), Sandra Cooper (a3), Fiona Noble (a4), Nicky Affonso (a4) and Christopher G. Fairburn (a5)...
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