Family interaction and cognitive content in the aetiology and treatment of eating disorders.
A review of the literature reveals two significant gaps in existing psychological research
into eating disorders. First, despite a clear association between dysfunctional family environment
and eating psychopathology, little is known about factors that might mediate between the two.
Second, cognitive-behavioural treatment is unexpectedly ineffective in anorexia nervosa or in
some cases of bulimia nervosa. To fill these gaps, the present research investigated the role of
core beliefs in the aetiology and treatment of eating disorders. Given their early origin, core
beliefs may plausibly mediate between family environment and eating disorders. In addition,
unhealthy core beliefs might explain the resistance to cognitive-behavioural treatment in some
instances. The thesis first considers the relationship between unhealthy core beliefs and eating
psychopathology in anorexic and bulimic women. This is followed by an examination of core
beliefs as an outcome predictor in cognitive-behavioural treatment for eating disorders. Finally,
the role of core beliefs as a mediator between dysfunctional family environment and eating
disorders is investigated. The results demonstrate high levels of unhealthy core beliefs in both
anorexic and bulimic women. These core beliefs also predict the level of symptom reduction
following cognitive-behavioural treatment, but only in the bulimic women. While core beliefs
play a perfect mediating role in the family interaction-eating disorders link in bulimia nervosa,
this relationship is less clear-cut in anorexia nervosa.