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Relationships between childhood abuse and eating disorders

By D.Clin.Psy. Debbie Hawkins


The general aim of this thesis was to examine links between childhood abuse and eating disorders. In the first chapter, research that investigates mediators in this relationship is reviewed. Very few studies that adhered to recommended means of testing for mediation were found, but preliminary findings suggested a potential mediating role for a number of variables, including core beliefs. In the second chapter, a factor analysis of the Childhood Abuse and Trauma Scale was performed. Support for a four factor structure was found as well as for the importance of considering subjective experiences of childhood abuse. Findings also suggested that researchers should look to investigate the impact of witnessing the abuse of other family members, as this emerged as a separate factor. In the third chapter, a non-clinical group of 135 undergraduate and nursing students completed standardised measures of childhood abuse, core beliefs and disordered eating attitudes. Mediational analysis provided support for a model where the relationship between childhood neglect and bulimia was perfectly mediated by subjugation beliefs and partially mediated by seven other beliefs (emotional deprivation, mistrust/abuse, social isolation, defectiveness/shame, emotional inhibition, entitlement and failure to achieve). In the final chapter, reflections on the process of conducting research as part of a clinical psychology doctorate are discussed

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