Are single-parent families different from two-parent families in the treatment of adolescent bulimia nervosa using family-based treatment?




To examine whether family-based treatment (FBT) for adolescent bulimia nervosa (BN), which emphasizes family involvement in helping to reduce binge eating and purging behaviors, is differentially efficacious in single-parent families versus two-parent families.


Forty-one adolescents (97.6% female; 16.0 ± 1.7 years old) with either BN (n = 18) or subthreshold BN (n = 23) were randomized to FBT as part of a larger randomized controlled trial studying treatments for adolescent BN.


Two-parent (n = 27; 65.9%) and single-parent (n = 14; 34.2%) families were compared on demographic variables, presence of comorbid psychiatric illnesses, and symptoms of BN at baseline, post, and 6-month follow-up. ANOVA and chi-square analyses revealed no statistically significant differences between two-parent and single-parent families on any variables with the exception of ethnicity, for which a greater proportion of Caucasians and Hispanic families had two- parent families compared with African-American families (χ2 = 8.68, p = .01).


These findings suggest that FBT may be an appropriate and efficacious treatment for single-parent families as well as two-parent families, despite the reliance on parental intervention to reduce bulimic symptoms and normalize eating patterns. © 2008 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 2009