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BACKGROUND: Recent research provides evidence for specific disturbance in feeding and growth in children of mothers with eating disorders. AIM: To investigate the impact of maternal eating disorders during the post-natal year on the internal world of children, as expressed in children's representations of self and their mother in pretend mealtime play at 5 years of age. METHODS: Children of mothers with eating disorders (n = 33) and a comparison group (n = 24) were videotaped enacting a family mealtime in pretend play. Specific classes of children's play representations were coded blind to group membership. Univariate analyses compared the groups on representations of mother and self. Logistic regression explored factors predicting pretend play representations. RESULTS: Positive representations of the mother expressed as feeding, eating or body shape themes were more frequent in the index group. There were no other significant group differences in representations. In a logistic regression analysis, current maternal eating psychopathology was the principal predictor of these positive maternal representations. Marital criticism was associated with negative representations of the mother. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that maternal eating disorders may influence the development of a child's internal world, such that they are more preoccupied with maternal eating concerns. However, more extensive research on larger samples is required to replicate these preliminary findings.


Journal article


Child Care Health Dev

Publication Date





111 - 119


Adult, Analysis of Variance, Body Image, Child of Impaired Parents, Feeding Behavior, Feeding and Eating Disorders, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Infant, Internal-External Control, Logistic Models, Male, Middle Aged, Mother-Child Relations, Play and Playthings, Prospective Studies, Videotape Recording