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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Volume49
Issue number4
Early online date22 Dec 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016

King's Authors

Abstract

Objective

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.
Method

Electronic databases were used to search for articles.
Results

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.
Discussion

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.

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