Influence of psychiatric disorder on the controlling behaviour of mothers with 1-year-old infants. A study of women with maternal eating disorder, postnatal depression and a healthy comparison group.
Stein A., Woolley H., Murray L., Cooper P., Cooper S., Noble F., Affonso N., Fairburn CG.
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.