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Mentalization and Relationships With Parents as Predictors of Eating Disordered Behavior

Rothschild-Yakar, Lily PhD*†; Levy-Shiff, Rachel PhD; Fridman-Balaban, Rachel PhD; Gur, Eitan MD§; Stein, Daniel MD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: July 2010 - Volume 198 - Issue 7 - p 501-507
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e3181e526c8
Original Articles

Our study postulated that deficient mentalization abilities and maladaptive relationships with parents may be risk factors in the genesis of eating disorder (ED). The study examined 34 female inpatients with anorexia nervosa—binging/purging type and 35 matched non-ED controls. Data indicated that anorexia nervosa—binging/purging type patients presented significantly lower mentalization levels and reported significantly lower quality of current relationships with their parents, compared with non-ED controls. The combination of the mentalization and relationship quality variables showed an additive effect for some ED-related symptoms but not others. Moreover, high mentalization reduced ED symptomatology even if relationship quality with parents was deficient. Findings supported the role of low mentalization as a risk factor, and of high mentalization as a protective factor, in the formation of ED.

*Safra Children's Hospital, Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, Ramat Gan, Israel; †Department of Psychology, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel; ‡Department of Psychology, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel; §Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, Israel; and ¶Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.

Send reprint requests to Lily Rothschild-Yakar, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Haifa, Haifa 31905, Israel. E-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.