The effects of parental mental health and social-emotional coping on adolescent eating disorder attitudes and behaviors

J Adolesc. 2016 Oct:52:154-61. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.08.007. Epub 2016 Aug 27.


This study examined whether social-emotional coping skills moderate the association between parental mental health symptoms and adolescent disordered eating attitudes and behaviors in a clinical sample of adolescents with internalizing and/or externalizing symptoms. Fifty-nine adolescent-parent dyads (N = 118 total participants) recruited from a metropolitan area in the Northeastern United States completed assessments at baseline and 12-month follow-up. Generally, higher parental depression and anxiety were only found to be associated with greater disordered eating attitudes and behaviors among adolescents who reported poorer (versus stronger) emotional awareness/expression skills and less (versus greater) ability to regulate emotions. Results may suggest that adolescents who lack the ability to effectively recognize, express, and manage negative emotions that arise in the context of a challenging home environment may be at greater risk for engaging in maladaptive coping behaviors, such as disordered eating. Thus, bolstering adolescent social-emotional coping skills may help protect against adolescent disordered eating.

Keywords: Adolescents; Dieting; Disordered eating; Parental anxiety; Parental depression; Social-emotional coping.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires