King's College London

Research portal

Attachment and mentalization and their association with child and adolescent eating pathology: A systematic review

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number4
Early online date22 Dec 2015
Accepted/In press14 Sep 2015
E-pub ahead of print22 Dec 2015
PublishedApr 2016

King's Authors



Insecure attachment and mentalizing difficulties have been associated with eating pathology in adulthood. However, it is unclear whether eating pathology is associated with attachment or mentalization in children. The aim of this study is to systematically review the literature in this emerging field.

Electronic databases were used to search for articles.

Twenty-two studies were identified. In the 15 studies investigating attachment, an association with eating pathology was found in all studies. Mentalizing difficulties and eating pathology were found to be correlated in the seven studies which examined their association.

In keeping with the adult literature, cross-sectional studies of children and adolescents consistently report associations with eating pathology. There is some evidence from prospective studies that insecure attachment may be a risk factor for the development of eating pathology in adolescence. The literature on mentalization and eating pathology suggests that adolescents with anorexia nervosa may have difficulties in recognizing emotions. Further research using clinical samples and well-validated measures of attachment and mentalization are required to shed further light on this area.

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454