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Background: In a recent study, 20% of the variance in the weight of infants of mothers with eating disorders was accounted for by mealtime conflict. Aims: To investigate the antecedents and interactive processes involved in the development of such conflict. Method: Mothers with eating disorders and their 12-month-old infants (n=34) and a comparison group (n=24) were videotaped during infant mealtimes. Specific classes of antecedents to conflict episodes were identified. An examination was then made of all such antecedents not leading to conflict and the mother-infant responses to each antecedent. Results: Within the index group, conflict was less likely when mothers acknowledged infants' cues and were able to put aside their own concerns. The relationship between maternal responses and the evolution of confiictual interaction was confirmed in multiple regression analyses including both index and comparison groups. Conclusions: Mothers'and infants' responses to potential antecedents to conflict had an impact on whether mealtime conflict ensued. Conflict arose because maternal eating disorder psychopathology interfered with aspects of responsive parenting. Declaration of interest The study was funded by the Wellcome Trust.


Journal article


British Journal of Psychiatry

Publication Date





455 - 461