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Fathers’ parenting, adverse life events, and adolescents’ emotional and eating disorder symptoms: the role of emotion regulation

By Ciara McEwen and Eirini Flouri


Purpose: To investigate the role of emotion regulation in the relation between fathers’ parenting (specifically warmth, behavioral control and psychological control) and adolescents’ emotional and eating disorder symptoms, after adjustment for controls. Methods: A total of 203 11-18 year-old students from a school in a socio-economically disadvantaged area in North-East London completed questionnaires assessing emotional symptoms (measured with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire’s (SDQ) Emotional Symptoms Scale), eating disorder symptoms (measured with the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26)), difficulties in emotion regulation (measured with the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS)), and fathers’ overprotection and warmth, measured with the Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI), as well as behavioral and psychological control. The confounding variables considered were number of proximal (i.e., during the last year) adverse life events experienced, gender, age, and socio-economic status (eligibility for free school meals). Results: Adolescents’ difficulties in emotion regulation mediated the link between fathers’ psychological control and adolescents’ emotional symptoms, but not the link between fathers’ parenting and adolescents’ eating disorder symptoms, which appeared to be more directly linked to fathers’ psychological control and number of proximal adverse life events experienced. Proximal adverse life events experienced were also strongly associated with difficulties in emotion regulation. Conclusions: The study findings have implications for intervention programs which may prove more fruitful in addressing adolescent emotional problems by targeting underlying emotion regulation abilities, and in addressing adolescent eating disorder symptoms by protecting adolescents with a recent experience of multiple adverse life events. Parenting programs also stand to benefit from the evidence presented in this study that paternal psychological control may have uniquely harmful consequences for adolescent development through the hampering or atrophying of emotion regulation abilities and the encouragement of eating disorders

Year: 2009
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