A survey of 424 college students revealed that, with sons and daughters alike, the father, not the mother, is more likely to create pressures leading college-age children to indulge in erratic eating habits that in turn can lead to anorexia, bulimia and other clinical illnesses, says Dr. Michelle Miller-Day, associate professor of communication arts and sciences.
"Another finding was that food itself was not the issue with students who reported disordered eating behaviors," Miller-Day notes. "Personal perfectionism, reinforced by peer and parental expectations of perfection in combination with the allure of advertising, may cause many young people to feel that they are not in control of their own lives and bodies. Eating then becomes an area in which they DO have a sense of personal control."
"These findings make clear that treatment for maladaptive eating must extend to a patient's relational network and not just focus on the individual patient," she adds. "A specific focus on the patient's history of communication with parents might provide insights into the development of negative eating behaviors. Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa have a very high mortality rate. The mortality rate associated with anorexia is 12 times higher than the death rate of other causes of death for females 15-24 years old."
Miller-Day and Jennifer D. Marks, a doctoral student at Penn State, presented their fdinings in the paper, "Perceptions of Parental Communication Orientation, Perfectionism and Disordered Eating Behaviors of Sons and Daughters," in the spring issue of the journal Health Communication.