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Katie Griffiths

on 8 May 2014

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BRUCH has suggested a more recent explanation into the development of anorexia in terms of poor parenting and the struggle for atonamy.

He suggests that anorexia is developed in early childhood when the mother cannot cope with her childs needs

Minuchin , Rosman and Baker took a family systems approach to explaining the cause of anorexia.

They suggested that a child develops anorexia as a way to divert attention away from other family problems e.g. divorce, death etc.
the conflict between the
maternal dependance
and the childs wish for
, results in anorexia, as a way of exerting self control.

At the same time, the mums ongoing relationship problems (with the child) means she wants to maintain dependance (control) and encourage immaturity in her child- both body and mind.
The absensce of eating was a way to repress sexual thoughts and the onset of sexual maturity.

Starvation in adolescene is also a way of avoiding the development of an adults body.

Restricted food intake prevents menstration & the development of sexual characteristics e.g. Breasts and enlarged hips.

Freud suggested that eating was a substitute for sexual activity.
By preventing this adult development, the adult can avoid anxiety assosciated with adulthood/sexuality.
For example, a woman may offer her child food when expressing anxiety. This leads to child feeling hopeless because their signals arent responded to properly.

These children fail to develop self reliance and are sensitive to criticism from others.

Anorexia is a misguided attempt to keep the family together.
Cause and effect
Limitation of this explination is that it is difficult to establish cause and effect.

It is unclear whether family problems come before an eating disorder or whether family problems are an effect of living with a person with an eating disorder.

Psychodynamic theorists assume that the family problems are the cause of the abnormality, but the alternative is equally viable.

This suggests that caution should be exercised before taking explinations at face value.
Real life application
Another strength of this explanation is that it has real life applications.

The principle apon which the theory is built has lead to the development of many forms of psychotherapy and family therapy. These have proved to be quite sucessfull in the treatment of anorexia.

This suggests that because therapies built around this approach to eating dissorders have been so effective, the roots of disorders like anorexia must lie in early parent-child relationships.

A strength is that there is supportive research evidence

Clinical reports & research have provided some support for BRUCH's theory. Clinicians have observed that parents of kids with eating disorders tend to define their childrens needs rather than letting them determine their own needs.

In addition Bruch, interviewed the mothers of 51 children with anorexia, and found that they had always "anticipated" their childrens needs, and never permitting the child to "feel hungry".

Research evidence
However, a limitation of this theory is that they are difficult to test using rigerous scientific methodology.

Evidence mainly comes from case studies but these have issues with reliability as they cannot be replicated.

CS's also have limited generalisability as the persons experiences are totally unique and may not reflect those of others.

Also, the evidence produced by Bruch is based on the observation of clinicians who fully support the theory - suggesting their observations could be bias.

This suggests that there are metholodical issues with case studies, apon this explination of anorexia - significantly reducing overall reliability and validity of research.
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