The Contributions of Parental Socialization of Emotion and Adult Attachment Orientation to Maladaptive Emotion Regulation and Eating Disorders



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Emotion regulation deficits are widely understood as an inherent component of eating disorders. Patterns of emotion regulation develop early in life in response to perceived validation or invalidation within attachment relationships with parents. Thus, parental responses to children’s emotions can be considered part of the co-occurring processes of parental socialization of emotion and attachment orientation formation. Extant literature has demonstrated that emotion regulation and interpersonal disturbances are implicated across eating disorder categories. Thus, the current study tested an attachment theory-guided model that included parental socialization of emotion, adult attachment orientations, and emotion regulation as factors contributing to transdiagnostic eating pathology. A sample of 250 undergraduate females at an urban, public university completed online measures of adult attachment orientation, parental socialization of emotion, emotion regulation and eating pathology. Results indicated that parental socialization of emotion and attachment insecurity predicted cognitive and attitudinal dimensions of emotion regulation, which predicted behavioral deficits in emotion regulation. Behavioral deficits in emotion regulation predicted eating pathology. Future directions for research include replication of this study in a clinical sample and extension of the sample to include male participants. Clinical implications include tailoring eating disorder interventions to the individual’s specific areas of emotion regulation deficits and unresolved interpersonal issues.



Eating disorders, Attachment, Emotion regulation