Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Certain styles of parental controlling behaviour influence child development. Work with mothers with eating disorders suggests that they may be particularly controlling of their infants. AIMS: To examine the nature and specificity of maternal controlling behaviour in mothers with eating disorders compared with mothers who had experienced postnatal depression and a healthy comparison group. METHOD: Mothers with eating disorders (n=34), postnatal depression (n=39) and a healthy comparison group (n=61) and their 12-month-old infants were observed during play and mealtimes, and blind ratings made of verbal and non-verbal control exerted by the mother. RESULTS: Mothers in the eating disorder group used more verbal control, especially strong control. There were no differences between the groups on gentle verbal control and physical contact. Maternal dietary restraint was the one feature of eating disorder psychopathology associated with the use of verbal control. Marital criticism was also associated with the extent of verbal controlling behaviour. CONCLUSIONS: Aspects of maternal control of infants were found to be specific to maternal eating disorder psychopathology.


Journal article


Br J Psychiatry

Publication Date





157 - 162


Analysis of Variance, Case-Control Studies, Child Development, Depression, Postpartum, Feeding and Eating Disorders, Female, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Maternal Behavior, Verbal Behavior, Videotape Recording