PurposePrevious studies on family meals and disordered eating have mainly drawn their samples from the general population. The goal of the current study is to determine family meal frequency among children and adolescents with anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and feeding or eating disorder not elsewhere classified (FED-NEC) and to examine whether family meal frequency is associated with eating disorder psychopathology.
MethodsParticipants included 154 children and adolescents (M = 14.92 ± 2.62), who met criteria for AN (n = 60), BN (n = 32), or FED-NEC (n = 62). All participants completed the Eating Disorder Examination and the Family Meal Questionnaire prior to treatment at the University of Chicago Eating Disorders Program.
ResultsAN and BN participants significantly differed in terms of family meal frequency. A majority of participants with AN (71.7%), compared with less than half (43.7%) of participants with BN, reported eating dinner with their family frequently (five or more times per week). Family meal frequency during dinner was significantly and negatively correlated with dietary restraints and eating concerns among participants with BN (r = -.381, r = -.366, p < .05) and FED-NEC (r = -.340, r = -.276, p < .05).
ConclusionsAN patients' higher family meal frequency may be explained by their parents' relatively greater vigilance over eating, whereas families of BN patients may be less aware of eating disorder behaviors and hence less insistent upon family meals. Additionally, children and adolescents with AN may be more inhibited and withdrawn and therefore are perhaps more likely to stay at home and eat together with their families.