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A Six-year Prospective Study on Children of Mothers with Eating Disorders: The Role of Paternal Psychological Profiles

Authors


Correspondence: Silvia Cimino, Department of Dynamic and Clinical Psychology, Faculty of Medicine and Psychology, Sapienza University of Rome, Via dei Marsi n. 78, 00185 Rome. Tel: +39 338-3080680; Fax: +39 06 97997735.

Email: silcimin@tin.it; silvia.cimino@uniroma1.it

Abstract

Background

Several studies have suggested that maternal eating disorders (EDs) represent a significant risk factor for children's affective and behavioral development. Yet, little emphasis has been placed on the paternal role.

Objectives

The present longitudinal study aimed to clarify the role of maternal EDs and the influence of paternal psychological profiles on children's emotional development.

Method

Our sample was composed of N = 64 families with firstborn children selected through preschools, primary schools, and outpatient clinics in central Italy. Parents and children participated in a 6-year longitudinal protocol that included a diagnostic interview conducted by clinicians (Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders [SCID-I]), a self-report (Symptom Checklist-90-Revised [SCL-90-R]), and a parental report-form questionnaire (Child Behavior Checklist [CBCL]).

Results

The influence of mothers’ EDs on their children's emotional development was confirmed. Moreover, fathers’ anxiety and obsessive-compulsive problems in association with mothers’ EDs and depressive symptoms influenced the onset of both internalizing and externalizing difficulties in their children over time.

Conclusion

Our results suggest that fathers’ psychopathological risk affects the development of emotional problems in children with mothers who have EDs. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.

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