Inpatients with Severe Anorexia Nervosa and Their Siblings: Non-shared Experiences and Family Functioning


Correspondence: Gina Dimitropoulos, Eating Disorders Program, University Health Network, Toronto, ON, Canada. Tel: (416)340-3749; Fax: 416-340-4198.




The aims of this study were the following: to identify perceptions of patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) and their siblings regarding differential experiences within and external to the family including sibling interactions, parental treatment, relationships with peers and events that are unique to each sibling; (2) to compare how patients and their siblings perceive eating disorder symptoms, parental affection/control, social support and stigma; and (3) to test associations with family functioning for patients with AN and their siblings.


A total of 26 patients paired with their siblings were recruited from an Eating Disorder Program and administered standardized instruments measuring different experiences within and external to the family, the impact of eating disorder behaviours, stigma, social support and family functioning.


Patients rated high on the differential experience of jealousy in contrast to their siblings. Patients scored higher than their siblings on eating symptoms, whereas siblings scored higher on social support. The impact of AN on the family, stigma towards the individual and family, and social support accounted for 37% of the variance in family functioning from the sibling perspective after controlling for age and gender. Of these variables, impact of AN on the family made the largest contribution.


Family-based and sibling-based interventions that aim to reduce the effects of the illness on the sibling relationship and the family are recommended. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.