Parents, Is It Your Fault? Effects of Familial Variables and Emotional Intelligence on Disordered Eating Habits and Attitudes

April 6, 2021   /  

Student Name: Joelle Lau
Major: Psychology
Minor: Earth Sciences
Advisor: Susan Clayton

Literature on eating disorders acknowledges the importance family influences have on its development. To further investigate familial influences, the current study examines the relationship between disordered eating habits and attitudes and familial factors, including family mealtime frequency, parental weight teasing and criticism, and parental habits and attitudes towards dieting and weight. Data were collected through a questionnaire that included questions from the Eating Disorder Examination-Questionnaire and the Schutte Self-Report Emotion Intelligence Test. The findings reveal that parental weight teasing and criticism and unhealthier parental habits and attitudes towards dieting and weight positively correlate with greater disordered eating habits and attitudes of both men and women. In contrast, family mealtime frequency and emotional intelligence act as protective factors, even after controlling for Body Mass Index and emotional intelligence. Moreover, family variables appear to have stronger influences on the disordered eating habits and attitudes of females than males due to societal expectations.

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Joelle will be online to field comments on April 16: 10am-noon EDT (Asia: evening,  Africa/Europe: afternoon).

71 thoughts on “Parents, Is It Your Fault? Effects of Familial Variables and Emotional Intelligence on Disordered Eating Habits and Attitudes”

  1. Joelle, congratulations on your I.S. and upcoming graduation!! It is great to see your senior research. I wish you the best as you turn the page to a new journey in life after Wooster. (Hopefully I’ll be able to see you during your presentation time on Friday.)

    1. Hi, Dr. Judge. Thank you so much! I have really enjoyed being in your classes during my time at Wooster. Hopefully I will see you at graduation!

  2. Great looking poster, Joelle! I think it wasn’t until the end that you realized how interesting some of your results are. I wonder if the gender differences are due more to differences in the kind of body concerns men and women have or to a social context that normalizes dieting more for women. I enjoyed working with you on this project!

    1. Hi, Dr. Clayton. Thank you so much for being such a great advisor! I really appreciate everything you have done for me. Without you, I would not have even realized how interesting my results are!

  3. Joelle, this is an amazing topic which such interesting results that are so applicable and important for people to learn about! I’m so thankful to have met and befriended you this year, I am excited to see what you do in the future!

    1. Hi, Marian! I am so glad we became friends this semester too! I hope you get to crochet a ton of amazing things! I am so excited for you.

  4. Hi Joelle – Congrats on this interesting work! I find it interesting and important that family mealtime behaviors acted as a protective factor — do you have thoughts on what happens during mealtimes that could be making them more important? Are there, perhaps, specific things families could do during mealtimes to help reap benefits?

    1. Hi, Dr. Karazsia. Those are such great questions!

      The literature has suggested that family mealtimes serve as an opportunity to demonstrate and reinforce healthy eating behaviors; it is a great way to create a structured framework for parents to monitor the eating habits of individuals to prevent eating-related problems or restrictive eating behaviors. It also serves as an opportunity for family members to bond and solve relational issues. These factors help promote the psychological well-being of individuals, which is a significant determinant in whether an individual will develop disordered eating habits and attitudes.

      The literature also suggests that in order for family mealtimes to act as a protective factor, it is vital that the mealtime experiences are positive and that the children are allowed to express their opinions and choose their food choices.

  5. Wow, Joelle! Nice work! What advice would you give to parents who want to raise children with healthy eating behaviors? Also, how might your results change if you surveyed a population with different social or cultural attitudes toward body shape and weight?

    1. Hi, Dr. Pollock! Thank you so much!

      I think the most important factor that I looked at was to implement regular and frequent family mealtimes. It is so important for children as it is a great opportunity for parents to model and reinforce healthy eating habits.

      I think it would actually be very interesting if I looked at another population. If the norms for the society are drastically different from the population I looked at, the familial variables would also differ. I wonder how that might affect the development of disordered eating habits and attitudes of those individuals.

  6. Hello Joelle, interesting topic. How does your own experience with your parents in this matter inspire you to do this topic?

    1. Hi, Auntie Lyanne. Thank you so much for supporting me today. The research question was definitely inspired by observations I made about sharing very similar eating habits, especially unhealthy eating habits, with my family.

  7. Great job Joelle, I’m very proud of you. What do you consider to be the most surprising finding from the results of your survey?

    1. Hi, Hope! Thank you so much! That means a lot to me.

      I think the most surprising result I found was how familial variables in men and women did not significantly differ, but women still showed greater body concerns. This indicated that men and women received similar amounts of weight teasing and criticisms, but these comments seem to have greater influences on women’s body image.

  8. Wonderful job! I think the poster is very informative and nicely summarizes your findings. I wonder, what motivated you in the first place to investigate familial influences on the development of disordered eating habits?

    1. Through observing how my whole family shares very similar eating habits, especially unhealthy eating habits, it made me really interested in how and why that is the case. So given my interest in psychopathology, it inspired me to look at familial influences in eating disorders.

  9. No wonder why Snowball uses to binge eating if he got the chance as he is living at restrictive diet environment, while we would always tease him about his obesity

    1. Yet, he deserves all the treats because he is the most perfect creature in the world!!!

  10. Loved this entirely! Such a great topic to explore, especially one so applicable to many peoples experiences.

    1. Hi, Nadine! Thank you so much for your support! It means so much more than you can imagine!

  11. Great work, Joelle. I have come across such cases, and have often wondered why is it that my female friends have/had eating disorders, but not my male counterparts. Your research has certainly shed light on a personal enigma.

    Furthermore, I would ask how do these young women who end up having disorders, cope? Do you think they go on to then tease their own daughters or do they develop a sense of empathy? And what kind of teasing do you think is the main culprit? Surely that is subjective, but what type of insults (as per your research) are more harmful than others, if any?

    I would love to understand so that I may use these insights to guide me on my parental journey, or to call others out on their misbehaviours with their children.

    1. Hi, Mr. Warbucks.

      I would like to believe that women would develop a sense of empathy and be more conscious of the appearance-related comments they give towards their own daughters. However, a lot of psychological research has suggested that similar phenomenons are intergenerational. Women could potentially give harmful weight-related comments towards their daughters unconsciously.

      I did not look at how different types of teasing may influence individuals, but I think that would be a great research question for future research.

      By the way, Annie called… she wants more family mealtimes because you have been too busy making money.

  12. …thus, Snowball shows extremely high emotional intelligence which allows him to cope with teasing and enjoying his snacks at all time

    Well done Snowball, your eating behaviour consistent with Joelle’s
    Study finding (P>0.05)

  13. Congrats Joelle! Your topic and results are very intriguing, especially because this is an important issue with teenagers and college students. Hope to see you again sometime after graduation!

    1. Hi, Stacey! Thank you so much! I wish we went through the whole I.S. process and graduate together. Psychology classes have just not been the same without you at Wooster. I am so excited for your I.S. journey and reading about what you find next year! I know you will do a wonderful job. Hope we can actually see each other soon.

  14. Congratulations on completing such an interesting and relevant I.S., Joelle! I found it fascinating that BMI doesn’t act as a protective factor. It is amazing the power that our social relationships can have.

    1. Thank you so much, Emily! Thank you for also making the Spring concert so meaningful even with COVID restrictions!

  15. I’ve loved reading your IS this year, Joelle! Your study is very interesting and provides great insight into the multifaceted contributing causes to eating disorders. Given your research, what are your thoughts on the “wellness” industry in the US as it relates young people and body image/eating disorders? Do you think that the strength of this movement has the power to change the influence of other factors like familial influence or self-esteem?

    1. Hi, Lynette! Thank you so much for helping me with my I.S. I really enjoyed working with you. I really appreciate all your help!

    1. Thank you so much, Auntie Esther! I really appreciate you checking out my research!

  16. Hi Joelle! Thank you for exploring this topic–I found your study’s results illuminating as I reflected on my own experiences. I was wondering if you had any more information on family meal times. Are there optimal conditions for these meal times (e.g. duration, setting, access to distractions)? Is there a point at which the impact of frequency plateaus?

    1. Hi, Gillian! The literature suggests that in order for family mealtimes to act as a protective factor, high frequency and priority should be placed on these family mealtimes, as well as ensuring its positive atmosphere and giving children the autonomy to express their opinions.

  17. Joelle! What an interesting topic! The results are very interesting and it is especially interesting the power parents have towards disordered eating. Congrats!!

  18. JOELLE, you are so smart, and I enjoyed listening to your presentation. I can’t wait to hear more about it in person. Thank you for being a constant inspiration!

  19. Congratulations, Joelle! I’m sure your research is going to be impactful and help so many others.

  20. Congratulations Joelle! This issue is really close to my heart, so it’s amazing to see it studied at the college. This is such interesting, important work. I was wondering- does this study correlate at all with what you want to do in the future?

    1. Hi, Kath! Thank you so much! I am very interested in continuing my studies in Clinical Psychology, but I am not 100% sure yet.

  21. Joelle, thank you so much for completing this incredibly important work. I’m so glad I’ve gotten to know you better, and I admire you so much! Congratulations!

    1. Hi, Laney! Thank you so much! You are so amazing and I love having you around. You are always so cheerful and I need that in my life!

  22. Congratulations! I’m interested to learn that emotional intelligence influences the genders differently. Which parts of the research surprised you? Thank you for your insights! Well done!

    1. Hi, Deborah!! Yes, how emotional intelligence plays a different role in the development of disordered eating habits and attitudes in men and women is actually a result that I found very surprising!

  23. Joelle! This is such an interesting topic — very fascinating that parents can play such pivotal roles in eating habits. Congratulations!!

  24. Congrats Joelle! I loved looking at your research! I’m so proud of you and all you’ve accomplished!

  25. Thank you for sharing your research here, Joelle. This is a super important topic and I know the implications of your findings have significant meanings for lots of people including parents–I’m so glad you’ve furthered dialogue about eating disorders through this project. Awesome job!

  26. Joelle, this is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! First of all, your poster is beautiful. Second, oh my, this is a huge part of what gets talked about in the dietetics world. Environment matters SO much, and the future of good nutrition and preventing eating disorders lies fundamentally in rethinking how we view and interact with food, especially in terms of the values our parents teach us. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Hi, Maya! Thank you so much! I definitely saw the links with your I.S. and mine. That is so interesting!

  27. What an interesting research topic, Joelle! Your poster is beautiful and your presentation is wonderful as well!

  28. Joelle this is truly wonderful really learned a lot. Congratulations on completing such an amazing year long project. Goodluck and All the best!!!

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