Childhood emotional abuse and eating psychopathology

Clin Psychol Rev. 2000 Oct;20(7):887-903. doi: 10.1016/s0272-7358(99)00018-5.


The potential role of childhood emotional abuse (CEA) in the etiology and maintenance of eating psychopathology is reviewed. While childhood sexual and physical abuse have been hypothesized as risk factors in multifactorial models of eating disorders, a role for CEA has only recently been considered. Initial findings demonstrate a phenomenological link between CEA and eating psychopathology, and suggest that this association might be different to the links for other forms of trauma (i.e., CEA may have a relationship with a broader range of eating symptoms than sexual and physical abuse). However, the psychological processes that might account for such a link are not yet well understood. Potential cognitive and affective mediators are considered, with a particular emphasis upon low self-esteem and anxiety. A model is proposed, to act as a framework for further research into this field. The clinical implications of the research to date and of the proposed model are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Affect*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Self Concept